A Salvadoran gang leader who fled to the nearby country of Guatemala has been arrested by authorities Friday and returned to his home country. El Salvador launched a crackdown operation on gangs in March which led to the capture of Eduardo Pérez, who goes by the nickname “Scooby”. He was accused of being a major player within the Mara Salvatrucha gang, responsible for ordering the wave of violence that occurred on March 26 which resulted in the deaths of 62 people.

According to Associated Press, President Nayib Bukele boasted about the gang leader’s capture on social media and continued to crow his crackdown on gangs. Pérez had been wanted by police since 2009, with an official arrest order being issued for alleged homicides.

“They believe they are untouchable and now cowardly try to escape from the force of the Salvadoran state,” wrote Security Minister Gustavo Villatoro on Twitter on Thursday night. He added that Pérez fled and moved to Guatemala in October before Guatemalan authorities found him in a hospital. Since the killing in March, El Salvador had arrested over 58,000 people on suspicion of being members of the country’s many gangs and even suspended some constitutional rights.

Just last week, El Salvador launched another operation that tackled the nation’s criminal organizations by deploying over 10,000 soldiers to the city of Soyapango and blocking all the roads leading to the city. Special forces were deployed as well to search houses for suspected gang members, while the police check the identity of those leaving the city.

The President himself announced the operation in a Twitter post that was coupled with an image of soldiers heavily armed and lined up outside the city. Bukele’s post read, "As of this moment, the municipality of Soyapango is totally surrounded.” He added that extraction teams from the police and the army had been tasked with hunting down every single gang member hiding within the city The leader assured the public that ordinary people have nothing to fear as he said the ongoing operation was against criminal groups not against the city’s honest citizens.

A recent poll conducted by the Central American University (UCA) showed that 75.9% of Salvadorans support the government’s strong measures against gangs and the current state of emergency in the country.

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele
El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele takes part in a decoration ceremony in San Salvador. -

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