(CNN)They were stripped down to their boxers and left barefoot. Many had their heads shaved as they were forced to run with their hands behind their back or neck. Altogether, there were 2,000 convicts who were transferred last week to El Salvador's new "mega prison", officially named the Center for Confining Terrorism.
The event was announced not only on national television but by President Nayib Bukele himself, who tweeted a much-discussed video of the transfer set to dramatic music.
Many in El Salvador (and foreign fans) applauded the footage -- more evidence of Bukele's tough "mano dura" approach to crime. And if critics and the families of those incarcerated found the footage chilling, their arguments found little traction in the country, where Bukele has effectively proposed a false dilemma: either embrace his lock-em-up strategy or relinquish control of the country to murderous criminal groups.
Last year, after an infamous weekend of killings, Bukele declared a state of emergency with the support of his country's Legislative Assembly, controlled by his "New Ideas" party. The state of emergency has allowed the government to temporarily suspend constitutional rights, including freedom of assembly and the right to legal defense.