Monday, April 27, 2020

Social Distancing, Latin American Style: A Photo Essay

Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: BBC
El Salvador's jails: Where social distancing is impossible
All photos by: Tariq Zaidi.
Latin America has some of the most overcrowded jails in the world. With prisoners crammed into tiny cells by the dozen, social distancing is impossible and poor medical facilities mean any outbreak of coronavirus would spread like wildfire.

The United Nations has urged governments to do more to protect inmates and has suggested the most vulnerable be temporarily released to ease overcrowding.

Chile, Colombia and Nicaragua have announced they will move thousands of prisoners into house arrest with priority given to the elderly, pregnant women and those with underlying conditions. Brazil has already started moving inmates over 60 into house arrest and Peru says it plans to give vulnerable inmates an amnesty.
But the country with the second-highest per capita prison population after the US has not taken yet taken any such steps. El Salvador has been grappling with gang violence for decades and its prisons are bursting at the seams.
Photographer Tariq Zaidi spent two years documenting conditions in El Salvador's jails before the coronavirus outbreak spread to the Central American nation. He gained access to six prisons as well as two police holding cells for a rare look inside the Central American nation's penal institutions.
As well as one of the largest per capita prison populations, El Salvador has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world.

But that rate has been going down from its height of 17.6 murders per day in 2015 to an average of 3.6 homicides a day in October 2019 and again to 2.1 in March 2020.

President Nayib Bukele, who took office in June 2019, claims much of the credit for that drop.

His zero-tolerance policy towards gang violence also extends to the country's prisons with jailed gang members allowed no visitors or phones and confined to their cells 24/7. If, on the other hand, the situation both inside and outside the jails is calm then normal hours and visitation rights are reinstated.
Before Mr Bukele came to power, a program called "Yo cambio" (I change) offered prisoners a chance to learn skills to boost their employability.
               Some even created their own designs and showed them off in prison fashion shows.
Given El Salvador's severe gang problem and the fact that up to 80% of the attacks committed on the outside are believed to have been ordered from behind bars, many fear that releasing prisoners will further escalate gang violence.
Prison guards routinely wear balaclavas to shield their identities so they and their families will not be targeted.
But prisons with their mass overcrowding could also become hot spots for coronavirus infections.

Respiratory diseases already have a higher incidence in the country's prisons. The rate of tuberculosis infection in El Salvador's prisons has been more than 50 times as large as that in the general population, according to the Pan American Journal of Public Health Study.

Given that coronavirus and tuberculosis spread in similar ways, authorities are scrambling to prepare for what infectologist Jorge Panameño has called a "time bomb" waiting to explode.
President Bukele has been making some changes to the Salvadorean prison system. On 26 December - before coronavirus spread to El Salvador - he announced that Chalatenango prison (pictured above) would be turned into a university. Six hundred inmates were transferred and the president said on Twitter - without offering any more detail - that the remaining 730 would be moved out in the following days.

But while President Bukele was quick to order a nationwide lockdown and curfew to curb the spread of the virus, no official policy for prisoner releases has been announced.

El Salvador's prisons have a capacity of 18,051 but the system currently holds more than 38,000 inmates.

Extreme heat, unsanitary conditions and tuberculosis claimed the lives of many inmates even before coronavirus.
                 The coronavirus pandemic thus presents a major problem to President Bukele.

To prepare for a possible coronavirus in prison, the president has already had to lift some of the emergency measures he imposed to better control inmates.

Moreover, judges in El Salvador have argued that those over 60 and with terminal illnesses should be temporarily released - however gang members would not be included in this move.
The dilemma he faces is a stark one: release prisoners and risk a rise in gang violence he has fought hard to drive down or keep them behind bars and face a potential coronavirus explosion.

All photos by: Tariq Zaidi. You can follow more of Tariq's work on Instagram, Facebook and his website.

38 comments:

  1. Social distancing is impossible for people that are catching the bus in Los Angeles like me that are still working even some people refuse to wear the mask and the bus driver don't say nothing to those people because people start fighting Ive been going through this lately.between 3 and 5pm the buses and metro train be getting packed with people no social distancing.

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    1. Mijo 3:00 you only showing 50 percent of the picture,I live in Los Angeles myself. The majority of the people are staying home, complying by the Mayor of LA. Escential workers are the only ones, that can take the buses or trains, many a times people are reminded it's mandatory to have a mask on, as you see many are ignorant. People that are smart will sit at a distance,
      Steve of L.A.

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    2. Uber my friend

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    3. Bus drivers are not police, the virus is killing people and those that don't wear the mask in public don't care, even when well informed are fools.

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    4. 3:00 Lucky Califa has a government that started fighting the epidemic since January 2020, while other "statesmen" were still denying in Denial in spite of repeated warnings and reports by their own speciaists because of a psychpath distrust of the Deep State and their co-conspiring "dems" and their hoaxes and fake news...as a matter of fack, their are.conspiring to bring it all back to square one by opening it all up for round 2.
      Meat workers ordered back to work without improvements or testing or get no unemployment benefits, by ORDERS from above.

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  2. They get what they deserve.

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  3. Una sociedad que llena sus cárceles, esta enferma, noesta funcionando para la mayoria !!!!!

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  4. Yaqui! You're putting out some quality post. I've been to El Salvador many times and please Dear Lord, don't let me go to jail there !

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  5. Majority of them are no good to society. Never have been. Never will be

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    Replies
    1. Yup.. belong right where they are.

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  6. Yaqui you and your burros are ok in my book, keep up the good work.

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    1. Yaqui are you from El Salvador?

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  7. So sympathy for these people, they could all rot in hell for what they did. Gang over family? That’s the outcome.

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  8. The corona will be the most evangelical thing that can hit the prison system everywhere. But hopefully South America first!

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    1. 8:32 there are depopulation plans for Latin American Banana Republics in the works since the US consummated their independence from Spain and other european colonies, hard to annex them to the US without getting rid of all those Indians and blacks, but they are evil, even the Kaibiles could not consummate the job...maybe this COVID 19 will get the job done.

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    2. @9:45
      Your comment is only half right because Latinos/Hispanics, Mexicans especially are already the majority in the US and it makes sense and was only meant to happen because we didn’t cross the border, the border cross us!

      White settlers tried to edge out Mexicans in their own backyard.

      No wonder my predominantly white neighbors been acting all friendly lately with the influx of middle class raza moving in the gabachos are starting to worry they thought Montana was always theirs! 😂 haha

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  9. Yaqui, nastiest pic needs posting of sweaty, loin clothed prisoners Hand-to-groin Gross...

    https://www.global-gathering.com/pictures/23599

    Canadian girl

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    1. Canadiana : Wow, the picture is a mind blower! El Salvador, I presume.
      Stay safe.
      Mexico-Watcher

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    2. 2:30 Girls, thank your lucky stars you do not have to share their prison cells with other 100 inmates without toilets, water, soap of anti-wrinkles cream.

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  10. What's the point of the pic of the last guy with the guitar?

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    1. To show how he spends the time singing to the ladies in prison.

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    2. To show how they are rehabilitating and learning skills to become better contributors to society. Lol, can't you tell by the look in his eyes?

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  11. Mara gangsters, by definition, are deeply indocrinated and know they are in for life; that death is the only way out. To buy into "normal" societal values and behaviors is possible for a few... but, the majority will fall back into the mara mode in time.

    Story # 1. I once met an ex-con (Mexican-American) gang banger and we had a long conversation about lots of things. He had very strange ideas about how the world works and especially about politics. In fact, I felt he was dangerous. No, in my experiences, ex-cons mara members are NOT likely to become Boy Scouts.
    Story #2: There are some great success stories, of course, but, livng La Vida loca in a gang is like becoming a Martian. To take a Martian and make him/her a civilized human being "is" possible but only like 15 -20 out of 100.
    Story # 3. What is to be done for the new generation of up-and-coming mara members? Think of maras as social organisms that reproduce their kind... like cockroaches.
    Mexico-Watcher
    P.S. I wish I were more optimistic.

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    1. no worries My self am pretty cynical
      cant not find dipolmatic words like yours
      Raised bred like a gang member
      always be a gang member i guess
      my brain has very bad thoughts on how to rid this But i would be banned from here

      More understanding needed to change this ??? kinda!! I dont wanna know seen enough

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  12. if The murderers rapists and drug dealers got death penalty, problem solved

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  13. Flat Out Inhumane

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    1. Yes, I agree, releasing violent criminals into society is completely inhumane.

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  14. Not so bad... looks like all the female prisoners are wearing makeup!

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    1. Those weren't females.just not aloud to stand when they pee.

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  15. Coronavirus is not an excuse to be released for serving a sentence related to violent criminal acts. Society should not suffer an even greater possibility of violence in order to protect those that are likely to commit said violence. This is lunacy at its core. Do the crime, do the time. Without the rule of law, society is worthless and morals fall by the wayside.

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    1. 4:49 the origins of the maras rests with the training the Salvadoran military counter-insurgency right wing death squads received from the School of the Americas, that stands for most LatinAmerican puppet regimes including mexico, the right wing criminals on El Salvador and Honduras are the ones that should be in prison with the maras.

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    2. 10:01 you make no sense, wtf you talk in' 'bout.

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  16. I think I'll set up a tattoo business in El Salvador . . appears the demand is high.

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  17. Slaughter them all. They're subhumans.

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  18. Man fuck all this criminals. If covid gets them. Thats wld be good for regular citizens.

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  19. They are so packed in there like sardines, it's guaranteed they will get the virus and die.

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