El Salvador mulls suspending some rights as crime spikes

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SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - El Salvador could declare a state of emergency, suspending some constitutional rights, to fight the alarming wave of gang violence that has pushed murder rates to record levels, the government said on Tuesday.

Leftist President Salvador Sanchez Ceren met with the Supreme Court, legislature and public prosecutor’s office to discuss the legal viability of actions such as prohibiting meetings and free movement, or tapping into mail, phone calls and social media, officials said.

The small, impoverished Central American state ranks among the world’s most violent, with criminal gangs controlling chunks of territory. Murders jumped almost 120 percent in the first two months of this year compared to 2015.

Just last week, gangs were fingered for 11 deaths in a rural part of the country.

The constitution allows the government to declare a state of emergency in cases of war, invasion, uprising or sedition, which would restrict free movement, freedom of expression and meetings, and suspend the privacy of traditional and electronic correspondence.

The opposition party is also in favor of any measures, but labor unions fear such methods could be used against them.

Eugenio Chicas, communications secretary, told reporters the government was considering a range of measures and would make the decision in coming days.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Writing by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Sandra Maler