SAN SALVADOR – El Salvador’s president Nayib Bukele pledged on Thursday to build a jail to hold white collar criminals in a crackdown against corruption, which he compared to his fight with criminal gangs.
He said, “Just like we have fought gangs with full force using the state’s resources, we will wage a war on corruption.” This was during his national address marking his fifth year in office. “Just like we built a jail for terrorists, so will we build one for corrupt.”
Bukele began a brutal crackdown on violent gangs in the country over a decade ago. He suspended constitutional rights and declared a state of exception. This policy has gained widespread public support, but human rights groups claim innocent people were caught up in this crackdown.
In February, the government moved thousands of suspected members of gangs to a newly-opened “mega jail.”
Bukele said, “We will use only legal means to fight white-collar crime wherever it comes from.”
Bukele used his speech as an opportunity to announce legislation to reduce the size of the country’s political system. The number of deputies at the unicameral Congress will be reduced from 84 to 60, and the 262 municipalities in this small Central American nation will be divided into 44 districts.
He said that these bills would need to be voted on by Congress.
Bukele stated that the former president Alfredo Cristiani’s property is being raided later in his speech.
The court ordered Cristiani’s arrest more than a year before for his alleged involvement in covering-up the murders of six Jesuits priests and their two staff members during the civil war of the 1980s.
As the address concluded, the Congress chanted “re-election”.
A newspaper survey in March showed that almost 70% of Salvadorans supported Bukele’s bid to serve a second term despite a constitutional prohibition on consecutive terms.
Bukele’s term as president ends in 2019.