Wednesday, September 27, 2023

El Salvador, crime, and civil liberties. What does this mean for the USA?


An editorial in the Washington Post, normally not a source I'd trust because of its extreme partisanship, does a good job of explaining how societal breakdown can fuel the rise of dictatorial policies - with the full support of the people.

In 2015, El Salvador was the world’s murder capital, with 107 homicides per 100,000 people — as if one of Chicago’s worst neighborhoods was a country unto itself.

Since then, homicide in El Salvador has fallen so far, so fast that its rate now looks comparable to the United States — and the num- bers may still be falling.

Under President Nayib Bukele, the government has shredded basic judicial protections, locking people up on as little basis as tattoos or anonymous phone calls.

The government itself acknowledges having released thousands who were arrested in error. Their number is dwarfed by the number still behind bars.

More than 1% of the country’s population reportedly languishes in prison, unable to secure adequate food, in overcrowded conditions that invite comparisons to “tattooed sardines” or “slices of sandwich bread.”

. . .

In the short term, at least, it seems that savagery has restored order to El Salvador’s streets. And the savagery is incredibly popular; as next year’s election approaches, polls have put [Bukele's] approval ratings as high as 90%, and none of his likely opponents appear to have any chance of an upset.

The reason a quasi-police state looks so good to Salvadorans is that so many of them were already living under a police state, except that it was run by gangs such as MS-13 ... Residents of gang territory had no recourse, because anyone testifying against a gang member risked death. Bukele’s erosion of due process reversed the power dynamic: Now, you don’t have to testify, you just make an anonymous phone call. It put a lot of innocent people in jail, many reportedly in horrific conditions.

. . .

It’s not entirely surprising that the people of El Salvador prefer the official police state to the freelancers. And this is where El Salvador offers a useful lesson to the rest of us: Do not make people choose between human rights and safe streets, because they will choose safe streets every time.

. . .

The best way to keep people from trading civil liberties for civic safety is to not let crime get out of control in the first place.

There's more at the link.

I don't think we'll see the same right-wing, pro-law-and-order approach in the USA, because our society is so divided that I don't believe an electoral approach along those lines can succeed.  A left-wing dictatorial approach is far more feasible, in my opinion, and is already a reality to some extent in our more "progressive" cities such as Philadelphia (see my first article this morning), San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and others.  What's that?  You don't support efforts to combat climate change, or unrestricted immigration, or "reparations for slavery", or soft-on-crime policies?  Then it's the gulag for you, comrade!

In our big cities, I think such pressures are very likely to increase.  Unfortunately, too many residents there have already given up the struggle for law and order, and are keeping their heads down and hoping to survive rather than standing up and being prepared to act.  However, we're seeing increasing pressures in society to act directly against the criminals and their enablers who are directly threatening our society.  It may be that we'll see vigilante violence increasing right along with criminal violence, and in response to it.  I don't want or support that - nobody in his right mind does! - but you can only push people so far before they start to push back.  As the song says, "Try that in a small town" - and it won't stop in small towns, either.

I think that reaction is what's driving a great deal of the effort by the progressive left to disarm Americans.  An unarmed citizenry can't defend themselves against crime and violence, or political oppression for that matter.  An armed, trained, equipped citizenry is another matter entirely.  Politicians can exploit defenseless citizens by promising them security in exchange for their electoral support.  If citizens can provide their own security, and enforce it if necessary, that changes the entire political dynamic - for the better, in my opinion.  As the late, great Jeff Cooper put it in various quotations that I've strung together here:

The media insist that crime is the major concern of the American public today. In this connection they generally push the point that a disarmed society would be a crime-free society. They will not accept the truth that if you take all the guns off the street you still will have a crime problem, whereas if you take the criminals off the street you cannot have a gun problem.

An unarmed man can only flee from evil, and evil is not overcome by fleeing from it.

The rifle itself [or handgun, for that matter] has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.

If violent crime is to be curbed, it is only the intended victim who can do it. The felon does not fear the police, and he fears neither judge nor jury. Therefore what he must be taught to fear is his victim.

One bleeding-heart type asked me in a recent interview if I did not agree that 'violence begets violence.' I told him that it is my earnest endeavor to see that it does. I would like very much to ensure - and in some cases I have - that any man who offers violence to his fellow citizen begets a whole lot more in return than he can enjoy.

That is why our masters in Washington are so anxious to disarm us. They are not afraid of criminals. They are afraid of a populace which cannot be subdued by tyrants.

Since we can no longer trust our law enforcement authorities and agencies to protect us against crime, it's up to us to take steps to protect ourselves, our families and our property.  As the editorial above concludes:  "The best way to keep people from trading civil liberties for civic safety is to not let crime get out of control in the first place."  I agree.  Therefore, let's equip ourselves to protect our civil liberties by defending ourselves against criminals.  That's perhaps the best way to stop dictatorial policies - from any point on the political spectrum - from undermining the values our Founding Fathers bequeathed to us.

As Robert Heinlein postulated:  "An armed society is a polite society."  That's a good place to start.



xxxx said...

Greetings from El Salvador. Bukele is a gift from God.

"The reason a quasi-police state looks so good to Salvadorans is that so many of them were already living under a police state, except that it was run by gangs such as MS-13"

This is completely disingenuous. No police state is remotely as bad as gangs. The body of a student of mine appeared on the beach, dismembered. The woman that didn't want to have sex with gang member was killed. If you entered his territory, you were killed.

El Salvador is not a police state either. If I didn't watch TV, I would not know that we are in state of exception. Life is normal here. Only gangs are in prison. In a small town I know, Comasagua, they took some people that were not members of a gang by mistake. Two or three guys but they were released after a week. So the spin of progressive American press suggesting that Bukele was after people only because of anonymous calls is not true.

I have been living in El Salvador for the last 25 years and I think that the world is flawed and fallen. You must choose the lesser of two evils. Where were their American progressives while Salvadoran people were killed and terrified for decades? They only defend the human rights of criminals, not of normal people. Despicable activist. Long live Bukele. God bless our president, El Salvador and the United States!

BGnad said...

Peter, you thinking is right on track with mine here. I as seriously expecting 'committees of vigilance' to crop up in some places.

Anonymous said...

My son-in-law is from Central America. He said that Bukele's family is from the Middle East and he was able to pull it off because he is an outsider who is beholding to none of the other power-brokers. No clan-ties. No Cartel connections.

It also helps that he comes from a society with a black-and-white, eye-for-an-eye paradigm about crime and punishment. No "We need to fix the boo-boos from a less-than-perfect childhood" BS.

Let's see: A results oriented outsider shaking things up...seems like I heard this song before...

xxxx said...

Yes, Bukele's family is of Christian Palestinian descent. These guys are called "the Turks" in El Salvador, because they came to El Salvador with Turkish passport at the beginning of 20th century, back when Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire.

They were traders and hard-workers and they became rich. They and the Jews (which also came about the same time) are the two power groups in the country. "Turks" have been in the right and the left, Antony Saca (Right-wing president) and Schafick Handal (communist leader of the guerrilla) were also "Turks".

I don't think Bukele"s approach is foreign. This is what Salvadoran people wanted for longtime but the other elites were linked with globalist powers and this alliance came with human rights, soft laws and so on. The miracle is Bukele is not interested in being nice or being popular to globalist powers.

If you lived in El Salvador, as I do, you wouldn't believe what this man has achieved. I never imagined I would see this day. God bless president Bukele and all the people of good will in the world