El Salvador, still recovering from its 1980-1992 civil war, is beset with endemic poverty and police corruption. Since the late 1990s, waves of violent crime have hit the country, making its murder rate one of the world’s highest. Most killings are perpetrated by gangs extorting money or fighting for control of city districts. Every year the dangers of daily life push tens of thousands of Salvadorans to hazard the journey north to the U.S. border. Through its fieldwork and advocacy, Crisis Group presses for crime prevention, rehabilitation and socio-economic reform policies that can make El Salvador a safer place to live.
Over the last three years, gang violence has killed nearly 20,000 people in El Salvador, propelling tens of thousands northward in search of safety. With U.S. help, the Salvadoran government should try to counter gangs with crime prevention as much as with law enforcement.
Political focus remained on govt’s temporary deployment of military in and around Legislative Assembly (LA) in Feb, while COVID-19 pandemic sparked tensions. Prosecutors 9 March interviewed fifteen lawmakers regarding President Bukele’s recourse to army in Feb in bid to make LA approve loan for his security plan. Polls showed widespread support for Bukele’s move despite civil society and international condemnation, while his party remained well ahead in voting intentions for LA elections due in 2021. In anti-corruption efforts, legislative committee 4 March began considering whether to lift immunity of former LA head Norman Quijano over allegations of electoral fraud. Violence remained at historic lows with police reporting 2.3 daily homicides 1-25 March, compared with around 4 in late 2019; however, following 29 Feb-1 March killing of two soldiers, Bukele 2 March ordered state of emergency in prison system to prevent imprisoned gang leaders from communicating with other gang members; 10 March lifted measure citing need to prevent spread of COVID-19 in prisons. Amid epidemic, LA 14 March approved decrees declaring national emergency and state of exception, allowing govt to limit or force movement of citizens, and prohibiting mass gatherings for fifteen days, 29 March extended measures for another two weeks; civil society decried restrictions and filed five complaints with Supreme Court, which accepted to look into three. Hundreds of people 30 March lined in front of economy ministry offices in capital San Salvador to claim $300 welfare payment promised by Bukele following quarantine measures; govt closed offices, citing need to prevent spread of virus, prompting dozens to protests.
Intense gang warfare continues to plague El Salvador, undeterred by successive governments’ heavy-handed and militarised repression policies. More investment in holistic violence prevention strategies and economic alternatives to criminal violence are necessary if the country's chronic insecurity crisis is to be alleviated.
Central American gangs are responsible for brutal acts of violence, abuse of women and forced displacement of thousands. Governments must go beyond punitive measures and address the social and economic roots of gang culture, tackle extortion schemes and invest in communities.
Un pacto de Estado por la paz en El Salvador [entre el Partido FMLN y Arena que] suponga un compromiso con los cinco ejes del Plan El Salvador Seguro [es un paso indispensable].
Reprimir y perseguir el crimen [en El Salvador] es necesario, pero tratar por igual a los supuestos criminales y al casi medio millón de personas que viven bajo su yugo puede llegar a ser contraproducente.
El sociólogo Robert King Merton calificó de "profecía autocumplida" una predicción que, una vez hecha, es en sí misma la causa de que se haga realidad.
Originally published in EFE
Originally published in The Washington Post
The northward flow of undocumented migrants fleeing economic hardship and violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America exposes thousands of vulnerable people to mass victimisation. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – Third Update early warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to continue to pursue an approach grounded in supporting community violence prevention, institutional reform and poverty alleviation in the countries of origin while supporting transiting countries in managing the flow.