Inmates arrive at a new prison in Tecoluca, El Salvador, on Feb. 24. (AFP/Getty Images)

Regarding León Krauze’s Feb. 28 Tuesday Opinion column “The scale of El Salvador’s new prison is difficult to comprehend”:

Salvadorans are understandably relieved to have violent gang members off the streets. But there is a dark side to Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele’s mass imprisonments. The “state of emergency” is also being used to target his political opponents and solidify his dictatorship.

On Jan. 11, five community leaders were detained under the pretense that they killed an alleged army informant during the civil war 33 years ago. The five are anti-mining activists, and Mr. Bukele has hinted that he wants to allow the return of mining in Cabanas. Metal mining has been banned in El Salvador because of water quality concerns.

The arrests are just the latest authoritarian moves, beginning with Mr. Bukele sending armed troops into the National Assembly to bend legislators to his will. He packed the courts, and they ruled that presidents can now serve more than one term. Mr. Bukele’s “state of emergency” is a fig leaf for a dictatorship. It is time for the U.S. government to speak out.

Ross Wells, Takoma Park

The writer is co-chair of the Washington Ethical Society’s sister community program in El Salvador.