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As crime continues, El Salvador weighs limiting citizens’ rights

Under the Salvadoran constitution, such a move could drastically limit freedom of association, movement, and include to mobilization of thousands of reserve military officers along with thousands more who already patrol the streets of the nation’s major cities and small towns, according to Voice of America’s Spanish-language news site.

The plan is backed by leftist President Salvador Sanchez Ceren and lawmakers say it could go into effect within weeks. But it’s sparked debate among citizens, who fear the measure would mean curfews, highway checkpoints and point to constitutional provisions that would allow soldiers and police to search homes and buildings without court orders.

Even some in Sanchez Ceren’s Faribundo Marti National Liberation party (FMLN) are skeptical the plan would work.

Crime prevention and street level control are working, said lawmaker Jaquelin Rivera of the FMLN. But prosecutors are not effectively investigating crimes.

“If those two tools don’t function together, it doesn’t matter what we do. Even if we use the army. Even if we decide on a ‘state of exception’ in which we restrict constitutional rights, the problems are not going to be resolved,” she said.

The President needs 43 of 86 congressional votes to pass the measure and between his allies in his FMLN party, and a third party called GANA, Sanchez Ceren would appear to have the support he needs.

The government could choose to apply the restrictions in the entire country or only in selected areas.

The Salvadoran Constitution allows for curtailing the rights of citizens in cases of “war, territorial invasion, rebellion, sedition, catastrophe, epidemic or other general calamati, or of grave disturbances to the public order.”

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