Report: COVID-19 Response Spurs Human Rights Violations, Abuse of Power

Press Release


Contact: Alexis Stoumbelis, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) (202) 521-2510 ext. 205, [email protected]

The Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) has released a new report that raises alarms about President Bukele’s authoritarian response to COVID-19 in El Salvador, including the curtailing of key constitutional protections. Download the report here as PDF or view it on our website here.

Major components of the administration’s response have been a national stay-at-home order and the establishment of quarantine centers, which have become widely used as detention centers for thousands of people deemed to have violated the order. Not only does this pose a serious health and safety risk to those detained, the Supreme Court has declared the policy of arbitrary detention and its aggressive enforcement by police and armed forces unconstitutional.

A diversity of political parties, public institutions, civil society organizations and human rights leaders in El Salvador have expressed concerns regarding President Bukele’s ability to respond adequately to this health crisis and his use of the pandemic as a pretext to further his militaristic agenda. Of particular concern is President Bukele’s flagrant disregard for recent Supreme Court rulings, which garnered international condemnation from the United Nations and U.S. Congressional leaders.

The report identifies several structural challenges that El Salvador faces in responding effectively to the pandemic, from lack of access to water to widespread economic precariousness. It also outlines urgent demands from social movement organizations to establish adequate protocols to ensure the protection of women, girls, the LGBTI community and others during the crisis.

Samantha Pineda, Program Director at CISPES issued the following statement:

“El Salvador’s response to COVID-19 has not only been misguided - if left unchecked, will exacerbate existing forms of structural violence in the country, from poverty to misogyny. More military in the streets will not help stop the spread of this virus. Worse, Bukele’s outright disregard for the law puts the Salvadoran people’s heroic gains through the 1992 Peace Accords process in imminent jeopardy. One important action the United States can and should take in response is to withdraw its significant support for police and military forces in El Salvador.

This pandemic could be a death sentence for those who might otherwise be saved by a humane and comprehensive public health approach. The country should be investing time, energy and resources into restoring capacity to the public health care system, which the Bukele Administration and right-wing parties in the legislature recently slashed, and ensuring that everyone in the country has access to both water and food, which they currently do not. This will allow people to fulfill the shelter in place orders that nations around the world have established as the best preventative measure to stop the spread of the virus.” 



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