El Salvador president pledges white-collar prison in ‘war’ on corruption

El Salvador president pledges white-collar prison in ‘war’ on corruption

02 June 2023 ( Reuters )

El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele on Thursday pledged to build a prison to hold white-collar criminals as part of a crackdown on corruption that he likened to his fight against criminal gangs.

“Just as we fought the gangs head on with the full force of the state, we will launch a full-on war against corruption,” he said during a national address to mark his fifth year of being in office. “Just as we built a prison for the terrorists, we will build one for the corrupt.”

Bukele launched a brutal campaign on the country’s violent gangs over a year ago, suspending constitutional rights in a so-called state of exception. The policy has won broad popular support but human rights groups say innocent people have been caught up in the crackdown.

The government in February moved thousands of suspected gang members to a newly opened “mega prison”.

“We will fight white-collar criminals wherever they come from,” Bukele added, “but we will only use legal means.”

Bukele also used his speech to announce bills to slim down the country’s political system by cutting the number of deputies in the country’s unicameral Congress to 60 from 84, and turn the small Central American country’s 262 municipalities into 44 districts.

These bills will need to be voted through Congress, he said.

Later in the speech, Bukele said former President Alfredo Cristiani’s property was being raided.

A court ordered Cristiani’s provisional arrest over a year ago for alleged involvement in covering up the murder of six Jesuit priests and two of their staff during the country’s civil war in the 1980s.

The address ended to shouts of “re-election” from the gathering in the Congress.

In March, a newspaper poll showed that nearly 70% of Salvadorans favored Bukele’s bid for a second term, despite an explicit constitutional prohibition against serving consecutive terms.

Bukele’s presidential term ends next year.