An image of the visit
Luisito Comunica in El Salvador's Mega Prison Luisito Comunica YouTube

Popular Mexican youtuber Luisito Comunica is at the center of the conversation in Latin America since Thursday, after he uploaded a video visiting El Salvador's largest and most controversial prison, housing some 40,000 people convicted of gang-related crimes.

The Centro de Confinamietno del Terrorismo (CECOT) is perhaps the best illustration of the policies carried out by Nayib Bukele's government in El Salvador and which delivered him a landslide win in last Sunday's elections.

Bukele is widely credited with all but quashing violence in the Central American country, once among the world's most violent. But while popular at home and in many places abroad, the actions taken have also garnered detractors, especially human rights organizations which have denounced that many of those imprisoned haven't had their due process and seen abuses after convicted.

More than 1% of El Salvador's population has been arrested, with Bukele's government rounding up more than 75,000 presumed members of gangs blamed for the deaths of some 120,000 civilians in three decades. About 7,000 have since been freed for a lack of evidence.

More than half of them are held in the CECOT, located in an isolated region of the country. In his visit, the youtuber described the collective cells in which inmates are held. He showed that they don't have mattresses and that lights are never turned off. He also indicated that hearings regarding their cases are held within the compound and that they never go out.

Luisito sent a supportive message of the prison, saying that "it is easy to be shaken and say 'that's tough treatment,' but when you learn the inhumane atrocities they committed, it all makes sense."

In another passage of the video, he spoke to an inmate from the Mara Salvatrucha gang, who said he didn't remember "how many crimes" he'd committed and warned people not to join gangs. "The consequences are grave even if they offer you heaven. It's all a lie from the devil," said the inmate.

Many inmates are convicted in collective trials, the latest example taking place this week when a court held a virtual sentencing hearing for 492 leaders of the feared Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang, accused of thousands of crimes, including more than 500 homicides.

The population seems to largely support any overreach given the results they've seen in security matters. Bukele is the most popular president in Latin America, with a recent poll by the Americas Society/Council of the Americas showing him with a 88% approval rate, almost 20 percentage points over Dominican Republican's Luis Abinader (69%) and Mexico's Andrés Manuel López Obrador (68%).

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