SAN SALVADOR – The Salvadoran Congress voted to increase the maximum prison sentence for adolescent offenders from seven to 15 years in an attempt to control violence by teens linked to gangs.
The new maximum will apply to convicts between the ages of 16 and 18.
All 76 of the lawmakers present for Thursday’s session of the Legislative Assembly voted in favor of the measure.
Official organizations and institutions promoting the rights of minors have expressed their rejection of the harsher penalties.
A legislator from the right-wing ARENA party, Roberto d’Aubuisson, said that in this country “more and more gangs are involving young people in criminal activities.”
He said gangs have “the idea that the law (for minors) is easy to fool, that it’s soft on them and that in the end they’ll come out of it all just fine despite the crimes committed.”
For her part, the lawmaker of the governing leftist FMLN, Margarita Velado, said that her party “doesn’t find it agreeable to increase jail sentences,” but “right now it’s a necessity.”
Police say that street gangs, which are accused of most of the crimes committed in the country, often use minors to perpetrate their criminal deeds.
El Salvador, a country of 6.1 million inhabitants, has an average of 13 homicides a day. EFE