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.
Tensions continued between President Bukele and opposition-controlled Legislative Assembly over govt accusations against main opposition parties. Assembly 8 Oct created special commission to investigate Sept claims by govt official that opposition parties Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) and Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) may have been behind spike in homicides 20-21 Sept. Assembly 16 Oct appointed Apolonio Tobar as human rights Ombudsman; Bukele criticised appointment, noting that Attorney General’s Office has investigated Tobar on four occasions. Witness at trial of 426 MS-13 gang members on murder and weapons charges 11 Oct alleged gang negotiated deals with FMLN and ARENA around 2014 presidential and 2015 local elections in exchange for votes, and reported gang members paid military officers for sniper training. Following Sept asylum agreement with U.S., Washington 16 Oct announced restoration of some aid previously cut in April, focused on security and law enforcement; Bukele 28 Oct announced U.S. had extended Temporary Protected Status residency for 260,00 Salvadorans living in U.S. to 2021. Head of National Police announced 108 homicides 1-29 Oct, approx half that of same period 2018.
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.