El Salvador’s State of Exception, Now Extended 9 Times, Explained


Updated data as of December 2022

El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly recently extended its state of exception, first approved in April 2022, for an additional 30 days. The extension became effective December 18. 


Under El Salvador’s Constitution, states of exception may be used to respond to extreme circumstances, including war  or serious disturbances of public order. Under a state of exception, the following rights and liberties are suspended: freedom of movement, expression, association, and inviolability of communications. In addition, the Legislative Assembly may suspend other rights related to the  right to defense and deprivation of liberty.


Currently, the suspended constitutional guarantees are:

  • Right to be informed of the reasons for detention, prohibition to compel a person to testify, and right to defense (Art. 12 clause 2).
  • Maximum duration of administrative detention (Art. 13 clause 2).
  • Inviolability of correspondence and telecommunications (Art. 24).


Measures undertaken during the current state of exception include:


  • Soyapango is one of El Salvador’s most densely populated municipalities, where 56.3 percent of its inhabitants are women and 46.7 percent are men. It is also a major receiver of remittances from abroad (having received USD$89.6 million between January-June 2022, according to El Salvador’s Central Reserve Bank). As of January 2023, three military roadblocks remain in place: in Soyapango municipality and in the communities of Tutunichapa and La Granjita, both in San Salvador, where 781,156, and 51 people have been detained, respectively.
  • As of January 2023, three military roadblocks remain in place: in Soyapango municipality and in the communities of Tutunichapa and La Granjita, both in San Salvador, where 781,156, and 51 people have been detained, respectively.

Impact of El Salvador’s State of Exception

A major concern is that El Salvador’s state of exception also eliminates constitutional guarantees and legal controls when it comes to monitoring public spending and state controls, while also limiting the right to access public information. The lack of transparency and administrative controls favors corruption.

At least 90 people have died in detention since the state of exception began in April 2022. 

Because the state of exception violates the right to the presumption of innocence, this has led to many cases in which the detainees’ physical and emotional integrity is violated. People are being stigmatized and condemned because of their social and economic backgrounds; and suffering criminal consequences like detention and criminal prosecution. 

With El Salvador’s state of exception lasting for over 10 months, this reflects the government’s inability to address violence and insecurity through other means. This restrictive and punitive approach does not address the root of the problem, and makes it impossible to implement solutions that uphold human rights.  


  • Familias Salvadoreñas Continuarán Protegidas con la novena prórroga de régimen de excepción. Familias salvadoreñas continuarán protegidas con la novena prórroga de régimen de excepción | Asamblea Legislativa de El Salvador. (n.d.). Retrieved December 27, 2022, from https://asamblea.gob.sv/node/12602 
  • Soyapango permanecerá bajo cerco militar hasta enero. Revista GatoEncerrado. (2022, diciembre 5) https://gatoencerrado.news/2022/12/05/cerco-militar-en-soyapango/
  • Cuatro de 10 habitantes de Soyapango están sin empleo. Diario El Mundo. (2022, 12 agosto) https://diario.elmundo.sv/economia/cuatro-de-10-habitantes-de-soyapango-estan-sin-empleo
  • Documentos de PNC desmienten a Bukele y confirman homicidios en cárceles durante el régimen de excepción. Revista Factum. (2022, 8 diciembre) https://www.revistafactum.com/documentos-de-pnc-desmienten-a-bukele-y-confirman-homicidios-en-carceles-durante-el-regimen-de-excepcion/
  • USAID, Fundación Rafael Meza Ayau, Fundemas (2022, agosto 11). Resultados de la oferta y Demanda Laboral existente para los jóvenes en el municipio de Soyapango. Fundemas. Recuperado 22 de diciembre, 2022, de https://fundemas.org/usaid-fundacion-rafael-meza-ayau-y-fundemas-presentan-resultados-de-la-oferta-y-demanda-laboral-existente-para-los-jovenes-en-el-municipio-de-soyapango/ 
  • Tres cercos militares dejan cerca de 1,000 detenidos. Diario El Mundo. Recuperado 4 de enero, 2023, de https://diario.elmundo.sv/nacionales/tres-cercos-militares-dejan-cerca-de-1000-detenidos
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