The Plastic Crisis Has Deep Corporate Roots: To Protect Our Planet, They Need To Be Exposed

Despite increasing public awareness of (and regulations on) plastic pollution, the global plastic crisis is only getting worse. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS.

Despite increasing public awareness of (and regulations on) plastic pollution, the global plastic crisis is only getting worse. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS.

By External Source
Aug 5 2022 – This spring, I taught a new undergraduate course in environmental sociology. Most of my students took the course because they were curious to see what their desire to live more sustainably had to do with sociology.

By the third week – after a deep dive into the troubling connections between fossil capitalism (the dependence of capitalism on fossil fuels), waste colonialism (the unjust international trade and disposal of hazardous waste between countries) and environmental injustice – a few students said glumly that they had thought the course would be more optimistic.

The negotiations will be challenging, however, given businesses’ vested interests in keeping regulations focused on waste rather than production. Now, it’s urgent that we push back against greenwashing and work towards a global mandate for limiting unsustainable plastics growth

During the fourth week, we explored the well-documented history of climate denial and deception among fossil fuel companies, as well as the related “deceit and denial” tactics of the tobacco, lead and chemical industries. “Do you think it’s really true?” one student asked me imploringly. “Do you think that businesses are really that unsustainable and will never change?”

I hesitated. I wanted my students to consider complex environmental problems from a critical sociological perspective, but I didn’t want to lead them down a pessimistic path. “Well,” I admitted, “I did just write a book about the plastics industry with the subtitle ‘how corporations are fuelling the ecological crisis and what we can do about it’”.

It’s hard to avoid pessimism when you witness firsthand the obstinacy of socially and environmentally damaging industries. Early in 2019, I attended a plastics industry conference in the wake of the marine plastic crisis, prompted by public outrage over viral images of marine wildlife choking on plastic. The crisis prompted a swift response from plastic-related corporations, who attempted to frame the problem in terms of littering and waste rather than overproduction. “We need to get the image of plastic in the oceans out of the public’s mind,” exclaimed a corporate executive at the conference. “We need to make plastic fantastic again.”

Since the dramatic rise of plastic production across the world after the second world war, petrochemical and plastics companies have fought to expand and protect their markets through creating demand for plastic products, denying toxic risks and shifting blame for pollution onto consumers. And despite increasing public awareness of (and regulations on) plastic pollution, the global plastic crisis is only getting worse.

My new book, Plastic Unlimited, sheds light on the corporate roots of this crisis. In it, I address the concept of the “corporate playbook” used by big oil, big tobacco, and, more recently, big plastic.


Playbook tactics

The corporate playbook often contains a common repertoire of strategies used by controversial industries to conceal or cast doubt on the harmful effects of their products. Champions of these strategies have been dubbed “merchants of doubt” and accused of offences from downplaying the health risks of smoking to funding climate change denial.

As researcher David Michaels wrote in his exposé Doubt is Their Product, “the manipulation of science by the plastics industry was at least as flagrant and as self-serving as any other industry” he had researched – including the tobacco industry. Michaels was referring to the vinyl chloride scandals of the 1960s and 1970s, when leading chemical companies conspired to hide evidence about the toxic health effects of the vinyl chloride monomer on workers in chemical plants.

Big industry’s track record continues today. It has denied the toxic hazards of myriad petrochemicals and plastic products, funded climate misinformation campaigns, misled the public about the effectiveness of recycling, and lobbied to thwart and delay environmental regulations. During the pandemic, it also lobbied to promote single-use plastic bags as the “sanitary choice”.

Leading corporations also use offensive tactics, including directing attention to their role as so-called innovators in green tech. Take the circular economy, for example. It sounds like a great idea to try to eliminate waste by shifting from a linear “take-make-waste” economy to one in which existing materials are reused for as long as possible. But, crucially, no global or national policy visions of a circular economy for plastics go so far as to call for limiting plastic production altogether.

In fact, the plastics industry promotes the weakest form of the circular economy – recycling – which means plastic production can keep going, despite the reality that most items going into a recycling bin will end up being burned or dumped.

What’s more, recycling uses a lot of energy. Chemical recycling, for instance, involves returning plastics to their original molecular states to be used again. Although it’s promoted as a solution to the plastic crisis, it’s a toxic, carbon-intensive process that’s effectively the same as incineration.

Here’s some good news: in March 2022, the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi agreed on a mandate for a new global treaty to address the crisis. This was a landmark achievement towards creating legally binding measures to prevent toxic plastic pollution.

Many scientists, activists and organisations insist that any resulting treaty must include a cap on plastic production. The negotiations will be challenging, however, given businesses’ vested interests in keeping regulations focused on waste rather than production. Now, it’s urgent that we push back against greenwashing and work towards a global mandate for limiting unsustainable plastics growth.The Conversation

Alice Mah, Professor of Sociology, University of Warwick

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Automobili Lamborghini's NFT journey continues countdown to the eight-month “The Epic Road Trip” program releasing new Lamborghini NFTs to collect

New York, NY, Aug. 05, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Following its two successful NFT projects to date, Automobili Lamborghini, in collaboration with NFT PRO and INVNT.ATOM, has commenced a virtual journey that starts from the Moon, crosses Space and continues in iconic locations across the world.

In this new adventure, Lamborghini super sports cars will be the unmissable protagonists of places that the traveler can visit and discover, collecting new NFTs every month for eight months until March 2023. The collection consists of four NFTs released each month for 4 days consecutively and will be available to purchase for 24 hours only. The fourth NFT will be available in a limited edition of just 63 units. At the very end of the campaign, only those who have acquired all the monthly NFTs issued "" either the three regular NFTs or three regular plus the limited edition – will receive a special NFT.

To reward loyalty during the campaign, other exclusive surprises will be communicated, including a digital artwork by the Lamborghini Centro Stile produced for “The Epic Road Trip” campaign, for those who purchase two complete monthly collections. For those who have completed the first four months acquisitions there will be the opportunity to participate in a special tour of the Sant'Agata Bolognese's Headquarters.

“Since 1963, the year of its foundation, Automobili Lamborghini has always led from the front, demonstrating this with its super sports cars that continue to be the protagonists in dreams of children and adults all over the world. Entering the virtual world of modern collecting with NFTs is the natural translation and evolution of that dream,” said Christian Mastro, Marketing Director of Automobili Lamborghini. "NFTs are the new, unconventional and exclusive proposition, paving the way for a new form of expression for the younger generations."

“Lamborghini loyalists and cryptocurrency fans will be amazed by this next series of drops that culminate in a very special reveal next March,” said Christian Ferri, CEO of NFT PRO, Lamborghini's launch partner and expert in engagement with consumers of Web3. "We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Lamborghini by offering this truly exclusive NFT collection."

INVNT.ATOM the global digital innovation division of [INVNT GROUP]; led the creative, strategy, design, content, and marketing communications.

"Our previous collaboration with Lamborghini – auctioning off a 1:1 NFT attached to the last physical Aventador Coup super sportscar "" was a testament to how impactful storytelling at the digital frontier cultivates community and consumer engagement. We're honored to grow our relationship with Lamborghini and to be partnering with NFT PRO to celebrate innovation and Lamborghini's 1963 heritage," said Scott Cullather, President, and CEO of [INVNT GROUP].

The first series of four NFTs will be released starting from 8 August 2022 on the website

Photos and videos:

Information on Automobili Lamborghini:

Media Kit: (High res imagery & bios).



INVNT.ATOM, part of [INVNT GROUP] THE GLOBAL BRANDSTORY PROJECT, is an innovation and brand experience agency devoted to helping global brands chart a course, navigate, activate, and create new opportunities at the digital frontier of Web3. Based in Singapore, the collective of strategists, marketers, creators, programmers, matchmakers, and thought leaders, turn strategies into stories and stories into experiences, that engage communities on the global stage. For more information about INVNT.ATOM, visit:


[INVNT GROUP] was established as an evolution of the founding global live brand storytelling agency INVNT. Led by President and CEO, Scott Cullather, [INVNT GROUP], THE GLOBAL BRANDSTORY PROJECT represents a portfolio of disciplines designed to help forward–thinking organizations innovate and impact audiences everywhere. The GROUP consists of modern brand strategy firm, Folk Hero; creative–led culture consultancy, Meaning; production studio & creative agency, HEV'; events for colleges and universities, INVNT Higher Ed; digital innovation division, INVNT.ATOM; creative multimedia studio, Hypnogram; and the original live brand storytelling agency, INVNT. For more information about INVNT.ATOM, visit:


NFT PRO is a white –label NFT solution for enterprises, helping brands strategize, create, and sell NFT's to customers, fans, and collectors. Their proprietary methodology and software take the guesswork from setting up and executing an NFT strategy and ensure consistent results and brand safety for every campaign. NFT PRO simplifies creating and executing NFT campaigns that are both effective and on–brand. For more information about NFT PRO, visit:


Researchers Embrace Artificial Intelligence to Tackle Banana Disease in Burundi

Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT (ABC) are using artificial intelligence to help eradicate Banana Bunchy Top Disease (BBTD). The disease threatens the livelihoods of farmers and impacts food security. Credit: Aimable Twahirwa/IPS

Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT (ABC) are using artificial intelligence to help eradicate Banana Bunchy Top Disease (BBTD). The disease threatens the livelihoods of farmers and impacts food security. Credit: Aimable Twahirwa/IPS

By Aimable Twahirwa
KIGALI, Aug 5 2022 – A group of scientists involved in finding solutions to minimize the impact of a devastating banana virus in Burundi have developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool for monitoring the disease.

United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) research shows that the Banana Bunchy Top Disease (BBTD), caused by the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV), is endemic in many banana-producing countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The virus was first reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the 1950s and has become invasive and spread into 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The disease has been reported in Angola, Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, and Zambia. The latest findings, however, show that BBTD is currently a major threat to banana cultivation and a threat to over 100 million people for whom the banana is a staple food.

The AI development team, led jointly by Dr Guy Blomme and his colleague Dr Michael Gomez Selvaraj from the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT (ABC), tested the detection of banana plants and their major diseases through aerial images and machine learning methods.

This project aimed to develop an AI-based banana disease and pest detection system using a Deep Convolutional Neural Network (DCNN) to support banana farmers.

A graphic shows the impact of Banana Bunchy Top Disease (BBTD). Credit: Alliance of Biodiversity and CIAT (ABC)

A graphic shows the impact of Banana Bunchy Top Disease (BBTD). Credit: Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT (ABC)

While farmers struggle to defend their crops from pests, scientists from ABC have created an easy-to-use tool to detect banana pests and diseases.

The tool, which has proven to provide a 90 percent success in detection in some countries, such as the DRC and Uganda, is an important step towards creating a satellite-powered, globally connected network to control disease and pest outbreaks, say the researchers.

During the testing phase, in collaboration with a team from the national agricultural research organization of Burundi – ISABU, two sites where the banana bunchy top disease is endemic in Cibitoke Province were compared with an area free of the disease in Gitega Province (Central).

Cibitoke Province is BBTD endemic and lies in a frontier zone bordering Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Performance and validation metrics were also computed to measure the accuracy of different models in automated disease detection methods by applying state-of-the-art deep learning techniques to detect visible banana disease and pest symptoms on different parts of the plant.

Researchers set out the reasons detecting disease in bananas is so vital.

“In East and Central Africa, it is a substantial dietary component, accounting for over 50% of daily total food intake in parts of Uganda and Rwanda.”

Bananas are also the dominant crop in Burundi. The surface area under cultivation is estimated at 200,000 to 300,000 ha, representing 20 to 30% of the agricultural land.

Data from Burundi’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock indicate food security and nutrition continue to worsen, with 21 percent of the population food insecure. They say this could be exacerbated by various plant diseases such as BBTD.

While banana is crucial to people’s food security and livelihoods, experts also argue that BBTD could potentially have a devastating economic and social impact on the continent.

“Based on the fact that when BBTD comes in, it is initially a very cryptic disease and does not display spectacular symptoms,” Bonaventure Omondi, a CGIAR researcher who collaborated on this project and who works on related banana diseases and seed systems projects, told IPS in an interview. While it was crucial to stop the disease early, it was also challenging, which is why the AI solution was vital.

Agriculture experts say that the East African Highlands is the zone of secondary diversity of a type of bananas called the AAA-EA types. These bananas are genetically close to the dessert banana types but have been selected for use as beer, cooking, and dessert bananas.

Banana cultivation in Burundi is grouped into three different categories. Banana for beer/wine in which juice is extracted and fermented accounts for around 77 percent of the national production by volume. Fourteen percent of bananas are grown for cooking, and finally, about five percent are dessert bananas which are ripened and directly consumed.

With recent advances in machine learning, researchers were convinced that new disease diagnosis based on automated image recognition was technically feasible.

“Minimizing the effects of disease threats and keeping a matrix mixed landscaped of banana and non-banana canopy is a key step in managing a large number of diseases and pests,” Omondi said.

As an example of how this emerging technology works, researchers focus on data sets depicted on banana crops with disease symptoms and established algorithms to help identify plantations where the disease is present.

Prosper Ntirampeba, a banana grower from Cibitoke Province in north-western Burundi, told IPS that he harvested fewer bunches of bananas in the latest season because of BBTD that spread through his farmlands.

“We have been forced to uproot infected plants since this disease reached our main production area. This resulted in a huge extra cost burden,” he said.

In another case, with the detection of BBTD, agricultural officials under instruction from researchers advised farmers to remove all infected ‘mats’ where several hectares of diseased plants had been destroyed. This is the key to eliminating the disease in Busoni, a remote rural village in Northern Burundi.

Although some farmers often resist uprooting their banana plants, Ntirampeba said it was vital to eliminating the disease.

“The disease is likely threatening livelihoods of most farmers who are dependent on the crop,” he told IPS.

Currently, other novel disease surveillance methods are also being developed by ABC researchers in Burundi, including drone-based surveillance to determine local disease risk and delimit recovery areas.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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Women Play a Key Role in Food & Nutrition Security in Nigeria

Credit: HarvestPlus

By Victor Ekeleme and Kalejaiye Olatundun
WASHINGTON DC, Aug 5 2022 – In Nigeria, women play key roles in food and nutrition security through their contributions to agricultural production, their influence on how to allocate household income, and their efforts to ensure proper nutrition for all household members.

However, malnutrition remains widespread among rural women and children in Nigeria, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic and amid the current global food crisis.

To help meet this challenge and empower farming women to improve nutrition, the CGIAR’s HarvestPlus program is deepening its longstanding partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Agricultural Development Program (ADP)—specifically, through the ADP’s Women in Agriculture (WIA) Extension Program.

(CGIAR (formerly the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research) is a global partnership that unites international organizations engaged in research about food security. CGIAR research aims to reduce rural poverty, increase food security, improve human health and nutrition, and sustainable management of natural resources).

The WIA platform has proven to be a sustainable and effective mechanism for women to reach out to other women with agricultural information and technologies. Notably, the WIA approach helps break through religious and cultural barriers that may prevent some women from gaining access to life-improving knowledge and resources.

HarvestPlus is strengthening the knowledge and capacity of about 500 WIA women officers in several states on the promotion of healthy feeding practices, nutrition, and promotion of biofortified crops and foods.

The officers will then be able to include biofortification messages and trainings as part of their activities with women in the communities where they work, with the aim of motivating women farmers and their families to produce, process, distribute, and consume biofortified crops and foods.

WIA training in Imo state

At trainings in Imo state, located in South East Nigeria, 32 WIA officers were selected from different senatorial districts and local government areas to learn how to create awareness about biofortification, and how to process some newly developed biofortified crop-based foods, especially snacks, complimentary foods and traditional meals.

Elsie Emecheta leads the WIA Imo state chapter. She is an advocate for fostering the success and security of smallholder farmers. Within the last few years, she has helped strengthen collective influence to shape policy debates on issues that affect women and girls; she has also supported the national mission to end hunger and malnutrition by raising awareness through nutrition health talks and training.

She has highlighted deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, and other micro-nutrients, which are widely prevalent across the country and have led to the decline in the physical and mental development of children, and ill health among adults, especially women and lactating mothers. Emecheta also has campaigned to integrate gender issues in agricultural policies and programs.

Emecheta was pleased that the training was expanding her team’s knowledge of biofortified crop and food production and processing. “Hidden hunger is a big problem. In today’s Nigeria, it has been confirmed through research that malnutrition is the main cause of maternal and child illness. We are here to learn more about biofortification and how to develop finished products from these nutrient-enriched crops,” she said.

Emecheta added: “Following this [training], we will be involved in enlightening women in rural areas. We are hoping that the officers will be inspired to mainstream biofortified crops and foods in their messaging and training with women. We believe they will be well-equipped to implement this knowledge in their various zones and communities.”

WIA trainings attract diverse group

The training for WIA officers also drew women agri-preneurs and influencers, representatives of rural cooperatives, and from some NGOs engaged in gender and livelihood programs. Emecheta was happy the event has raised awareness about the critical role of women in agriculture and how direct support for female business owners will play a role in ensuring a more inclusive, resilient, and sustainable food system in the South East of Nigeria.

“As part of the training, the women will be exposed to the technologies for producing products such as snacks, complementary foods, and traditional household meals from biofortified cassava, and maize. We have introduced them to processing the products for business and home consumption. We have about 32 women undergoing the training,” said Emecheta.

Emecheta and her group have developed a new-found entrepreneurial spirit, spurring women to invest in biofortified cassava and maize cultivation. She is very confident that the opportunities afforded by the HarvestPlus initiative in Imo state will help the participants establish themselves as positive influencers of other women, successful biofortified crop farmers, processors, and marketers.

Olatundun Kalejaiye, Nutrition and Post-Harvest Officer at HarvestPlus, was excited to be part of the efforts to ensure women can make better nutrition choices while also improving their income generation abilities as this will lead to inclusive economic growth for women in Imo state.

For her, building a food-secure future starts when one woman is empowered to know that she doesn’t need to be wealthy before her family can be well nourished. What women need is the right knowledge of nutrition and how to choose their foods, how to combine them and how to prepare them.

If one woman is nutrition smart, she can influence her daughters, daughters-in-law, nieces, grandchildren, and on and on, from generation to generation.

Said Kalejaiye: “We have women who have come for this training without an idea of what biofortification is all about. This is an opportunity to educate and sensitize them and create the needed awareness about the potential for women and children in the communities where they live.”

The HarvestPlus program of the CGIAR focuses on helping to realize the potential of agricultural development by delivering gender-equitable health and nutritional benefits to nutrition-vulnerable populations.

HarvestPlus currently works with Nigerian partners to promote vitamin A-biofortified cassava, maize, and orange sweet potato. By the end of 2021, 1.8 million smallholder farming families were growing vitamin A cassava and 1.6 million were growing vitamin A maize.

Women are priority participants in all aspect of HarvestPlus’ work.

Victor Ekeleme is a Corporate Communications Professional based in Lagos, Nigeria and Olatundun Kalejaiye is Agriculture4Nutrition Expert, Gender Promoter, Member – Nutrition Society UK

To learn more, visit the HarvestPlus website, or contact us.

IPS UN Bureau


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The Price of Bukele’s State of Emergency in El Salvador

A group of alleged gang members is presented to the media by police authorities in El Salvador on Jul. 20 as a demonstration of the effectiveness of the war against gangs waged in this Central American country under a state of emergency. But families of detainees and human rights organizations warn that in many cases they have no links to criminal organizations. CREDIT: National Civil Police

A group of alleged gang members is presented to the media by police authorities in El Salvador on Jul. 20 as a demonstration of the effectiveness of the war against gangs waged in this Central American country under a state of emergency. But families of detainees and human rights organizations warn that in many cases they have no links to criminal organizations. CREDIT: National Civil Police

By Edgardo Ayala
SAN SALVADOR, Aug 5 2022 – The body of Walter Sandoval shows a number of dark bruises on his arms and knees, as well as lacerations on his left eye and on his head – signs that he suffered some kind of violence before dying in a Salvadoran prison, accused of being a gang member.

The evidence of the beating is clear in photographs that Walter’s father, Saúl Sandoval, showed to IPS.

Walter, 32, was one of those who died in Salvadoran prisons after being detained by the authorities in the massive raids that the government of Nayib Bukele launched at the end of March, under the protection of the decreed state of emergency and the administration’s fight against organized crime and gangs.

The young man, a farmer, died on Apr. 3, in the parking lot of the hospital in Sonsonate, a city in the west of the country where he was transferred, already dying according to the family, from the police station in Ahuachapán, a city in the department of the same name in western El Salvador.

He had been transferred to the police station after his Mar. 30 arrest in the Jardines neighborhood of the municipality of El Refugio, also in the department of Ahuachapán.

“They tortured him in the dungeons of the Ahuachapán police station,” his father told IPS.

He added that his son had been hanging out with friends, getting drunk. A few minutes later, a police patrol picked him up on charges of being a gang member, which the family vehemently told IPS was not true.

“He never received medical assistance, he died in the hospital parking lot,” the father added.”They tortured him in the dungeons of the Ahuachapán police station. He didn’t receive medical assistance, he died in the hospital parking lot.” — Saúl Sandoval

He says the only explanation he has for why the police detained Walter is because “they wanted to get the day’s quota.” What he meant is that police officers are apparently supposed to arrest a specific number of gang members in exchange for benefits in their assigned workload.

Deaths like Walter’s, if the participation of police is confirmed, are the most violent and arbitrary expression of the human rights violations committed since the government began its plan of massive raids, in what it describes as an all-out war on gangs.

Since late March, the Salvadoran government has maintained a state of emergency that suspended several constitutional guarantees, in response to a sharp rise in homicides committed by gang members between Mar. 25 and 27.

In those three days, at least 87 people were killed by gang members, in a kind of revenge against the government for allegedly breaking an obscure under-the-table agreement with the gangs to keep homicide rates low.

The state of emergency has been in place since Mar. 27, extended each month by the legislature, which is largely dominated by the ruling New Ideas party. Since then, violent deaths have dropped to an average of three a day.

Among the constitutional rights suspended are the rights of association and assembly, although the government said it only applies to criminal groups that are meeting to organize crimes. It also restricts the right to defense and extends the period in which a person may be detained and brought before the courts, which is currently three days.

The government can also wiretap the communications of “terrorist groups”, meaning gangs, although it could already do so under ordinary laws.

After the state of emergency was declared, homicides dropped again to around two or three a day, and there are even days when none are reported.

But some 48,000 people have been arrested and remanded in custody, accused by the authorities of belonging to criminal gangs. And the number is growing day by day.

However, the families of detainees and human rights organizations complain that among those captured are people who had no links to the gangs, known as “maras” in El Salvador, which make up an army of a combined total of around 70,000 members.

On Jun. 2, rights watchdog Amnesty International stated in an official communiqué that “Under the current state of emergency, the Salvadoran authorities have committed massive human rights violations, including thousands of arbitrary detentions and violations of due process, as well as torture and ill-treatment, and at least 18 people have died in state custody.”

But President Bukele, far from being receptive to criticism, dismisses and stigmatizes the work of human rights groups, referring to their representatives as “criminals” and “freeloaders” who are more interested in defending the rights of gang members than those of their victims.

Walter Sandoval is one of the young men who have died with signs of torture in El Salvador's prisons under the state of emergency in force in the country since the end of March. The police captured him without any evidence linking him to gangs, said the young man's family - part of a pattern that has been documented by human rights organizations. CREDIT: Courtesy of the Sandoval family

Walter Sandoval is one of the young men who have died with signs of torture in El Salvador’s prisons under the state of emergency in force in the country since the end of March. The police captured him without any evidence linking him to gangs, said the young man’s family – part of a pattern that has been documented by human rights organizations. CREDIT: Courtesy of the Sandoval family

Silent deaths and torture

The local human rights organization Cristosal has documented nearly 2,500 cases of arrests which, according to the families, have been arbitrary, with no basis for their loved ones to have been detained under the state of emergency.

The organization has also monitored press reports and social networks and has carried out its own research to establish that, as of Jul. 28, some 65 people had died while detained in the country’s prisons or in police cells as part of the massive police raids.

Some of the deceased showed obvious signs of beatings and physical violence, as was the case with Walter and other cases that have been widely reported in the media.

The official reports of these deaths received by family members are vague and confusing, such as that of Julio César Mendoza Ramírez, 25, who died in a hospital in San Salvador, the country’s capital, on Jul. 15.

The official report stated that he had died of pulmonary edema, i.e., his lungs filled with fluid, but also stated that the case was “being studied.”

Suspicions that the deceased were victims of beatings and torture during their imprisonment are not ruled out by their relatives or by human rights organizations.

“The cause of death given to the relatives in the hospital sometimes differs from the legal medical examination, and that leads one to think that something is going on,” lawyer Zaira Navas, of Cristosal, told IPS.

She added: “There are also families who say they were told it was cardiac arrest, but the victims have bruises on their bodies, which is not compatible (with the official version).”

And in the face of doubts and accusations that beatings and torture are taking place under the watchful eye of the State, the authorities simply remain silent and do not carry out autopsies, for example, which would reveal what really happened.

Navas remarked that, even within the state of emergency, “the detentions are arbitrary” because the procedure followed is not legally justified and many people are detained simply because of telephone complaints from neighbors – with which other human rights defenders coincide.

Another problem is that among these 2,500 complaints by families, about 30 percent involve detainees who have chronic diseases or disabilities or were receiving medical or surgical treatment, according to Cristosal’s reports.

The prison staff do not allow family members of the sick detainees to bring their medication, although in a few rare cases they have authorized it.

“We have seen deaths because it is presumed that they have been tortured, beaten, etc., but there have also been deaths of people who have not been given the medication they need to take,” Henri Fino, executive director of the Foundation for Studies on the Application of Law (FESPAD), told IPS.

Regarding the dubious role played by the government’s Institute of Legal Medicine (IML), in charge of conducting the forensic examinations to inform families about the cause of deaths, Fino said that in his opinion it has no credibility.

Especially, he added, now that members of the so-called Military Health Battalion have been stationed since Jul. 4 at several IML offices, presumably to assist in various tasks, including forensic exams, given the shortage of staff.

“What collaboration can they (the military) provide, if they are not experts, and the only reason they are in the IML is to exercise oversight?” Fino said.

Media war

Some of the people who have died in jails or prisons, who were arrested under the state of emergency, were described by the local media as victims of arbitrary, illegal detentions, in contrast with Bukele’s propaganda war claiming that all the detainees are, in fact, gang members.

The press has highlighted the case of Elvin Josué Sánchez, 21, who died on Apr. 18 at the Izalco Prison located near the town of the same name in the department of Sonsonate in western El Salvador.

The media have referred to him as the “young musician”, because he had been learning to play the saxophone, and they have described him as a decent person who was a member of an evangelical church in the area.

But according to neighbors, Sánchez was well-known as an active gang member in his native El Carrizal, in the municipality of Santa Maria Ostuma, in the central department of La Paz.

“They saw him well-armed on farms in the area, along with other gang members, and he told the owners not to show up there anymore, or they would kill them,” a resident of that municipality, who asked not to be identified, told IPS.

Contradictions like this have strengthened local support for Bukele’s insinuations that the independent media are in favor of gang members and against the government’s actions to eradicate violence in the country.

In fact, opinion polls show that a majority of the population of 6.7 million support the president’s measures to crack down on the maras.

But even though Sánchez was recognized by neighbors as a gang member, his arrest should have been carried out following proper procedures and protocols, based on reliable information proving his affiliation to a criminal organization.

This is something the police do not usually do in these massive raids where it is impossible for them to have the evidence needed on each of the nearly 48,000 detainees.

Nor did the fact that he had been a gang member merit him being beaten to death, since his human rights should have been respected, said those interviewed by IPS.