Two decades after the end of its civil war, El Salvador has been trying to limit the influence of criminal gangs that control large portions of the country. Once afflicted by the world’s highest murder rate, the country now sees fewer homicides, but the gangs have tightened their grip upon turf where they run extortion rackets and exercise other forms of social control. 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.
Following a spate of murders, the Salvadoran government ordered mass roundups of suspected criminal gang members, throwing more than 53,000 in jail. The clampdown is popular but unsustainable. Authorities should develop a path out of gang life that members can choose.
Authorities extended state of exception for 11th time, and International Monetary Fund (IMF) published findings on state of economy and outlook.
State of exception renewed once again amid continued concern about human rights. Following Legislative Assembly’s 11th renewal of state of exception on 14 Feb, Minister of Justice and Public Security Gustavo Villatoro 22 Feb said 64,512 people had been arrested for gang affiliation since measure began. Concerns about human rights violations continued as state of exception’s one-year anniversary neared. Notably, online news outlet El Faro 3 Feb said measure had broken gangs’ hold on communities but also resulted in systematic violation of human rights and slide into authoritarianism. According to NGO Cristosal, as of 15 Feb there had been at least 107 in-custody deaths since March 2022. Meanwhile, authorities 24 Feb transferred 2,000 prisoners to new mega-prison of Tecoluca, which will house 40,000 prisoners; NGO Human Rights Watch 26 Feb said “packing tens of thousands of detainees is unlikely to bring security for Salvadorans in a sustainable manner”.
International Monetary Fund released statement on economic situation. Following its latest mission to El Salvador, IMF 10 Feb presented final statement amid concerns about economic situation, saying country must bring its debt “back to a sustainable path”; statement also highlighted increased vulnerabilities, including account deficit, low international reserves and high stock of short-term domestic debt.
The reduction of homicides [in El Salvador] seemed not to be due to government security strategy, but rather a gang decision.
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 indispen...
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 p...
In late March, El Salvador’s criminal gangs spearheaded a killing spree that left 87 people dead over a weekend. In response, President Nayib Bukele imposed a state of exception and launched a #WarOnGangs that has jailed over 53,000 alleged gang members in six months, elevating the country’s prison population rate to the world’s highest. Tiziano Breda, Crisis Group’s Analyst for Central America; Susan Cruz, Consultant; and Roberto Valencia, Journalist, discuss the consequences of this popular and controversial strategy.
El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele set in motion a massive crackdown on suspected gang members when he declared a state of emergency in March. In this photo essay, Crisis Group experts explain how the government's response to gangs affects women.
This week on Hold your Fire! Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Crisis Group experts Tiziano Breda and Ivan Briscoe about politics in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras and why Central Americans are leaving for the United States.
San Salvador’s millennial President Nayib Bukele simultaneously represents an opportunity to end gangs’ chokehold on his country and risks the disintegration of a fragile democracy carved out of the 1980s civil war. He needs to be more transparent, but deserves more support.
As the coronavirus rages in Mexico and the northerly Central American countries, criminal outfits have adapted, often enlarging their turf. To fight organised crime more effectively, governments should combine policing with programs to aid the vulnerable and create attractive alternatives to illegal economic activity.
Online Event to discuss International Crisis Group's report on the drop in homicide rates in El Salvador and the security policies of President Nayib Bukele.
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