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Colombia compares mega prison in El Salvador to ‘concentration camp’

Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro has lashed out at his counterpart in El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, for having built a new high-security prison in Tecoluca that has received 2,000 suspected gang members.

At an event at a university on Wednesday, Petro compared the prison to a “concentration camp.”

“On social media, you can see the concentration camp in El Salvador full of young people, thousands and thousands in prison. It gives one chills,” he said.

On Friday, Bukele shared videos showing barefoot tattooed men with shaved heads in shackles who were being forced to walk with their bodies bent over into the prison.

Two thousand suspected gang members were moved to the facility, the largest prison in Latin America.

“This will be their new house, where they will live for decades, all mixed, unable to do any more harm to the population,” Bukele wrote on Twitter.

The prison, called the Center for the Confinement of Terrorism, was built to hold 40,000 prisoners targeted in Bukele’s “war against gangs,” a move that has been strongly criticised by human rights organisations which say the arrests constitute a serious violation of human rights.

“Salvadoran security forces have battered vulnerable communities with widespread human rights violations in the name of public safety,” said Juanita Goebertus, the director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas division.

First 2000 inmates moved to El Salvador’s new gangster prison

‘We achieved same thing from schools’

The war against members of the so-called Maras began on March 27 last year, when Bukele’s government declared a state of emergency after three days of violence left 87 dead, which the president blamed on the gang known as MS-13.

According to polls, 95 percent of the population supports this security strategy, which has lowered the homicide rate in the country.

But Petro condemned Bukele’s popularity boost.

“The president of El Salvador is proud because he reduced the homicide rate by subduing the gangs that today are in those prisons,” he said.

“We achieved the same thing. We managed to reduce the homicide and violence rate, not from prisons but from schools and universities,” he added.

READ MORE: NGOs report ‘widespread’ violations in El Salvador’s war against gangs

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