The anti-gang push, denounced by many rights groups, has nonetheless given Bukele sky-high approval ratings ahead of his re-election bid early next year. Representational image. Caspar Benson/Gettyimages

Security officials announced on Monday that Salvadoran police have apprehended over 100 Colombians, accusing them of participating in a microfinancing operation that involved money laundering from drug trafficking and gang-related activities.

According to officials, the criminal organization allegedly provided loans to individuals and small businesses, using illicitly obtained funds, and charged an interest rate of 20%.

President Nayib Bukele's administration has adopted a tough stance against gangs since last year, resulting in the arrest of approximately 70,000 suspects in a large-scale operation that has significantly reduced the level of violent crime.

Despite facing criticism from various rights groups, President Nayib Bukele's stringent anti-gang campaign has propelled his approval ratings to unprecedented heights as he prepares for his upcoming re-election bid in early next year.

During a press conference, Attorney General Rodolfo Delgado revealed that in instances where victims of the financial scheme were unable to repay their loans, the criminal group resorted to intimidation tactics, coercing them into divulging their bank account details.

Delgado further stated that the obtained information was subsequently utilized to facilitate the transfer of funds abroad.

"Colombians are our brothers," Bukele wrote in a Monday post on Twitter. "However, these people will have to face Salvadoran justice."

According to Attorney General Rodolfo Delgado, approximately $20 million, believed to be connected to drug trafficking gangs, has been estimated to have been transferred to Colombia since 2021 as part of this scheme, Reuters reported.

Colombia's foreign ministry acknowledged the situation and stated that they are currently engaged in discussions with their embassy and consulate in El Salvador regarding the arrests.

However, they did not provide any additional comments regarding the allegations faced by the Colombian nationals involved.

The president's office released a breakdown of nationalities involved in the sting operation, revealing that aside from the over 100 Colombians, three Salvadorans, a Guatemalan, and an Argentine were also arrested.

These individuals were apprehended as part of the operation.

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