"It has been four weeks since the shoemaker vanished from his hometown, hauled away in handcuffs by Salvadoran police," DNYUZ reported this week. "The family of the man, Heber Peña, 29, has gathered business receipts and signatures from clients to prove he makes his money honestly. They fear he is now stuck in an overcrowded prison, accused of being a gang member."
Nevertheless, the outlet continued, his family still believes that there is much benefit to the ongoing crackdowns by police that ultimately let to the cobbler's arrest. And they are admiring of President Nayib Bukele, who ordered the crackdown.
“Apart from this, everything the president has done is magnificent," said Caleb Peña, Heber’s brother.
Peña is just one of about 18,000 Salvadorans who have been locked up in recent weeks following a spate of murders in March that led to a declaration by Bukele of a state of emergency which resulted in the suspension of civil liberties that are otherwise guaranteed in the country's constitution. The declaration also allows kids as young as 12 to be tried as adults if they are believed to be affiliated with gangs.
Human rights groups have denounced the actions as violations of fundamental freedoms. U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken urged the Salvadoran government to “uphold due process and protect civil liberties.”
But most Salvadorans are not complaining. The country has grown weary of endless bloodshed, of the gangs that terrorize them, of the lawlessness that has inspired so many to travel more than 1,000 miles to the American border.
The outlet reports that most of the country's residents appear pleased and relieved that Bukele is cracking down though doing so means he must also undermine the fragile democracy that Salvadorans have tried mightily to build over the past 30 years.
Following a deadly civil war that ended in 1992, a new wave of lawlessness swept over El Salvador, which is the smallest nation in Central America. Gangs appeared and took root after thousands of Salvadorans were deported back to their country by the U.S., many of whom had built criminal gang networks in Los Angeles and established chapters of MS-13.
"The gangs fueled a cycle of bloodshed that deepened frustration with a political system that could not deliver lasting peace," DNYUZ reported. "Now many Salvadorans have embraced a young leader with an authoritarian bent who, at least temporarily, has given them the stability that has proved elusive."
Bukele, 40, has actually become one of the more popular leaders around the world, and his supporters say that is due primarily because of the quick decline in gang violence since he became president in 2019. In addition, he has been praised for his management of the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping many citizens economically afloat with handouts of food and other provisions.
Biden administration putzes claim that gang violence has only subsided because of a secret truce between them and the Bukele's government, which he denies. Also, critics have become increasingly concerned at Bukele's policies which subvert the brittle government institutions while he attempts to consolidate more power unto himself. Fueling those concerns: Bukele's party has removed five Supreme Court justices and the country's attorney general, the latter of whom was investigating the administration while attacking the country's media and advocacy groups.
But most Salvadorans simply don't see themselves as repressed, DNYUZ reported, or they "just don't care."
“For many people in El Salvador, democracy is basically the ability of the political system to respond to their plight,” José Miguel Cruz, an expert on El Salvador at Florida International University. “By that standard, they see this as the best option they have.”
So Salvadorans are literally trading their rights for a little security, something our founders warned Americans never to do. And we're seeing the results: A rise in arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, which was predictable.