What happens when you don't have the death penalty
El Salvador doesn't have much of a death penalty.
According to Amnesty International:
The death penalty was abolished in El Salvador in 1983 for all but exceptional crimes. Under article 27 of the 1983 Constitution it can only be imposed during times of international war on those convicted of certain offences defined in the Military Code, such as treason, desertion, espionage and sedition.
They have a lot of laws like that, all Sorosy and Western European on the human rights front, with one right after another for criminals, who get let off either by the laws or through corruption. So now they have a lot of killers. El Salvador is home to the MS-13 and Calle 18 gangs who are closely allied with Mexico's cartels and America's prison gangs, and they're all criminals, including killers. With no fear of the death penalty, or any rule of law, for that matter, they've proliferated.
Just one problem, though: The public got tired of this, and the reaction in that country wasn't vigilantism, but rough justice. President Nayib Bukele, a loose cannon of a president, built a gargantuan mega-prison to shut the crime down.
It was crude and brutal, with huge sweeps of criminals off the streets, and according to reports, some innocent people were lumped in and swept up with the violent thugs and thrown with them into the can.
The Daily Mail ran a photo spread showing just how hideous and dehumanizing the prison is.
Last February, the Guardian even reported that whatever its other problems, it seemed to be working:
Even staunch government critics such as the trailblazing news outlet El Faro have conceded that Bukele's crackdown — which has seen more than 64,000 people jailed and dramatically slashed the murder rate — has produced "extraordinary change" for Salvadorans, albeit at a huge cost for democracy and human rights.
Thousands of innocent people are believed to have been arrested since the offensive began — some simply for "resembling" criminals or after anonymous tipoffs — while more than 100 have died behind bars.
"The dismantling of gangs has enormous life-changing potential for the country," El Faro reported recently after documenting the groups' apparent dissolution in a detailed 5,000-word investigation. "They have ruined the gangs as you knew them," one senior gang boss declared.
That is fitting, given the scope of the crimes these gangs have committed — killing random people to prove their bona fides to the gang in gang initiations. Killing people for not ratting out their friends. Killing people randomly or for ransom or shakedowns. The kinds of crimes committed by these gangs is beyond the ken of most Americans living in a country with rule of law.
Now the Mail is reporting that the gargantuan prison is a death trap:
El Salvador's new mega prison is already packed with bitter rivals from two of North and Central America's most feared gangs — MS-13 and Calle 18 — with history showing their foot soldiers will take any opportunity to kill their enemies.
Life in the vast CECOT 'Terrorism Confinement Centre' complex — which opened only in January — is dire, with rights groups already comparing it to a concentration camp.
More than 100 inmates share a cell, each of which has just two toilets. All are given a little under one-metre squared to live and sleep. They have no mattresses, no outdoor spaces, and they are regularly beaten, abused and exploited.
It seems ready made for some kind of mass death event, given the constraints of the prisons, the volatile and morality-free nature of the convicts, and the crowded conditions. At a minimum, it's bound to make them meaner and angrier if and when they get let out.
But more likely, it's a disguised death penalty. Throwing vicious rival gang members together in close quarters in inhuman meat-packing conditions like a rat king with the tails tied together is almost certain to trigger a vicious gang battle where the gangs will kill each other. That certainly would leave the same result as the death penalty. Given the setup seen now, it seems so inevitable that one wonders if it may have been the idea in the first place. The state has no power to execute the worst of the killers, so it throws them all in together and lets them have at it, even with potentially innocent people swept into the mass, to ensure that most get eliminated. Survival of the fittest, or law of the jungle, becomes the actual law because they don't have any other tools for getting rid of the worst of them.
The Mail doesn't bring it up, but illegal aliens I know have told me that big prisons like that in Latin America tend to catch fire for "unknown" reasons, leaving huge numbers of casualties, too. "That's how they get rid of them," a Honduran maid once told me, noting this famous Honduran prison fire. I've also seen recent instances in Venezuela and even Chile, which may be this dynamic. That may be another scenario for a proxy death penalty plan by the state for the unexecutable convicts.
It's the bad reaction that follows from namby-pamby "humanitarian" laws that don't permit the state to get rid of its most monstrous people. The bad guys proliferate, the ordinary people get the death penalty in the random gangland street killings, and then whoever is in the prison at the wrong place and time gets the death penalty as well when the place catches fire or the gangs go at it.
We've seen this reaction dynamic to ineffective "human rights" and global standards interpretations of the law — in the Philippines and Thailand and other places where the state can play fast and loose with the remaining law to cut down on crime. It's a natural reaction, pretty equivalent to vigilantism, which has happened in other lawless places.
The bottom line here is that if there isn't a legitimate death penalty, there will be this kind of a death penalty — there will be a death penalty one way or another, and this prison setup for it is far more crude and unfair than the rule of law kind.