Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Violence and Impunity in El Salvador

The LA Times published an excellent article today about gang violence in El Salvador. As violence along the border in Mexico increases, El Salvador continues to have one of the highest murder rates in the world; in fact, the article cites that the country's murder rate is five times that of Mexico. Half of the murders in El Salvador are committed by youth, and the National Civil Police state that 70% of the victims are youth between the ages of 15 and 39.Some of the violence can be attributed to gang violence. LA Times journalist Tracy Wilkinson interviews a Spanish priest, Father Antonio Rodríguez, who runs a violence-prevention program in a parish in the impoverished Mejicanos neighborhood in San Salvador. Father Rodríguez asserted that "gangs used to protect the neighborhoods, their turf, and attacked only outsiders." However, with current President Antonio Saca's ineffective and draconian Iron Fist policies toward youth involved with criminal activity and the rise of the number of gang members in prison, gangs now "strike anywhere...because they need to support their incarcerated associates and families."

The article points out hundreds of murders each year are committed by members of the police force, private security guards, and assassins hired to carry out "social cleansing." Meanwhile, impunity reigns as few murder cases are rarely solved. El Salvador has a long history of providing impunity for the worst human rights offenders: war criminals during the country's bloody Civil War are protected by a blanket Amnesty Law. Given the prevailing sense of impunity coupled with dire poverty, is there any wonder that the death tolls keep climbing?

To read the article, click here.

*Photo by José Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images though the LA Times.

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

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