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.
Judicial authorities took steps in fight against organised crime, including trial involving plea-bargain witness that ended 12 Dec with conviction of 373 of 426 MS13 gang members on trial, including seventeen historic leaders, on homicide, drug, and weapon charges among others, with sentences of up to 74 years. Judge said prosecutors should have also presented charges against politicians from ARENA (Alianza Republicana Nacionalista) and FMLN (the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front) parties whom witness accused of negotiating with gangs in exchange for political support. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) paid first “in loco” visit in 32 years 2-4 Dec, focusing on public security, transitional justice, people deprived of their freedom, migrants’ rights, women’s rights and LGBTI people. According to National Police, December closed with 120 murders, which Bukele said 31 Dec was least violent month since 1992 peace agreement. Homicides dropped 6 per cent in the second half of 2019. President Bukele visited Japan, China, and Qatar late Nov-15 Dec, securing investment in important infrastructure projects and other cooperation agreements.
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.