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.
Power struggle continued between, on one hand, President Bukele and, on the other, Legislative Assembly and Supreme Court, over terms of COVID-19 restrictions. Bukele 4 June issued executive decree extending nationwide quarantine until 15 June; 6 June vetoed emergency bill passed late May by Legislative Assembly, which set out plan to restart economy 8 June. Supreme Court 8 June ruled 4 June decree unconstitutional. Legislative Assembly 12 June passed new bill to reopen economy; next day, Bukele said he would veto it and issued new decree to reopen economy in phases from 16 June onward. Amid increase of reported COVID-19 cases, Bukele 25 June sent legislative proposal to Assembly to reinstall rolling 15-day nationwide quarantine. Meanwhile, opposition party Nuestro Tiempo 13 June called on Assembly to lift Bukele’s legal immunity for breaking rule of law and defying checks and balances on power; Bukele’s supporters immediately branded move as coup attempt. Justice and public security minister 4 June boasted improvements in security in first year of Bukele’s presidency, with 62% decrease in homicides and 36% decrease in disappearances since June 2019. Newspaper El Faro 13 June reported burials carried out with COVID-19 protocol suggest death toll may be higher than official figures.
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.
As the coronavirus spreads, and the U.S. presidential election looms, the Trump administration and Mexican government continue to deport migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Some deportees are carrying the virus. Central American states should press their northern neighbours for more stringent health measures.
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.