“This state of exception thing — it’s been a beacon of hope for business,” says Johnny, the owner of a new pop-up store that sells clothing, food, and refreshments along the main road to Izalco Prison, a towering complex west of San Salvador that holds many of the more than 44,000 people the government has rounded up since declaring a “state of exception” on March 27. Like Johnny, many have opened up street shops in areas adjacent to the country’s prisons, where every day, mothers, wives, fathers and loved ones gather in search of information on the whereabouts of their detained relatives.
But while business has been booming for some, for the families of the incarcerated —many already struggling to make ends meet— the state of exception has spelled further economic ruin. In some cases, relatives have had to spend their last few dollars on uniforms and toiletries for their imprisoned loved ones, or pay for bus fare, use the bathrooms near the prisons, or even rent a marker to write the name of their relatives on their packages before sending them into the prison. For many, these expenses are exacerbated by the reality of having to set aside their informal jobs so that they can search for their missing sons and husbands or wait for them outside the prisons. For some, the state of exception has been good for business; for thousands of others, it has spelled economic and social ruin.
*Translated by Max Granger
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