Get tough policies on gangs counter-productive

The current get-tough policies of the Salvadoran government against youth gangs have been counter-productive according to a recent study:
SAN SALVADOR, Nov 1 (IPS) - Tough policies against youth gangs in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have only contributed to increasing crime, and an integrated approach that tackles the causes of the problem is urgently needed, according to civil society groups in Central America.

Research by the Central American Coalition for the Prevention of Youth Violence (CCPVJ) showed that the heavy-handed measures adopted in those three countries have provoked 'an adverse effect,' with increased violence and more homicides, in contrast to developments in Nicaragua, Mexico and neighbourhoods in Washington, DC that were included in the comparative study.

The number of murders committed by young people in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras rose by about 40 percent after the implementation of tough new policies in the last three years, Jeannette Aguilar, one of the researchers and director of the University of Central America's Public Opinion Institute (IUDOP), told IPS. Further data are still awaiting detailed study.

This is 'extremely alarming,' the expert said.

Three years ago, the governments of the Northern Triangle of Central America began put into effect harsh policies named 'Mano Dura' (Firm Hand), 'Super Mano Dura', Zero Tolerance and 'Escoba' (Clean Sweep), which in practice declared open season on young people accused of belonging to 'maras', or street gangs.

But these programmes strengthened the gangs' organisations in jails, and now their acts of violence, such as burglary, kidnapping and, recently, massive extortion, are directed from within the prison walls, according to the CCPVJ report.(more)

I apologize for the recent lack of new posts on the blog. My job has been very hectic lately and I have not been able to keep up with the news from El Salvador. Hope to get back to more regular posts soon.


Anonymous said…
Yes it's true that violence went up after those programs but that doesn't necessarily mean that it was because of those programs.
More than half of the deportees arriving constantly to El Salvador have criminal records and there's no treaty between El Salvador and US that makes those deportees with criminal records who have yet to complete their sentences in american jail, continue to serve their sentence in El Salvador.
So all those criminals are let loose in El Salvador bringing with them new ways to criminalize people.
Never in the past had we dealt with so many delicuents. I know some of those programs have not given the results we were after ... but at least it shows that the government after all is trying to do something. It takes a big deal of effort to change a the whole structure of a country to effectively deal with this new type of threat. This is not United States where money is not a problem for security issues.

Some may not agree with me but I think we have an ok government (given the money and tools they have been working with)

There a drive to purge the corrupt from the Police, senators and other institutions that demand respect. Let's keep this drive going.

The govt. has increased the level of transparency. Without this transparency politicians such as Sylva would countinue to run their scams and using the people's money for their benefit. There's a lot more work that needs to be done.
Anonymous said…
An NGO employed Salvadoran friend of mine sat through a seminar on gangs and violence last week, and the assembled academics and speakers labeled El Salvador as having the worst gang problem in all of Latin America. A couple of interesting factoids came out of this, 60% of El Salvador´s population is between the ages of 15-30. The inability of the church in El Salvador to reach this group, and it´s reluctance to adapt to the youth culture, has led to this group being an unreached people group within El Salvadoran society. In a country full of churches, in some communities none of the young people attend church. If delincuency is the problem, part of the solution has to be young people embracing a better way of life, and the Gospel of the love of Jesus Christ has the power to do that. Also interestingly enough, they reported that gang membership leveled off about three years ago. Since that time recruiting new members seems to have become a problem for the gangs. If that is true, and they are in a better place to gauge that than I, that should offer a glimmer of hope that somewhere down the road things do get better. The fact that gang life is not being glorified by the youth culture and that most see it for what it really is should be seen as a bright spot in an otherwise very dark picture. Something caused that to happen, but
whether it was Mano Duro or the continuing daily horror show in the media remains to be seen. The consensus seemed to be though that this is the greatest challenge El Salvador faces, to which I agree, and a problem that will be hard to solve.
Anonymous said…
Although the governments policies are difficult to prove as responsible for the rise in cirme, what it's clear is that the lack of a comprehensive policy for the situation IS DEFINITIVELY responsible. Among the causes that the governments have overseen, by portraying themselves "as tough and macho" thru their policies, are as somebody mentioned it before: the deportation of criminals from the US. The Salvadoran government for reasons still unknown (though anyone might be able to specalute on them) has never taken a real stand about these deportation of convicted felons. There are no reabilitation programs and even some of the ones that ONGs (for example: Homies Unidos) has are not supported by the government. The vision is a very repressive of capturing and sending them to jail. When you are have amounts of 30 or 50 thousands members on these maras you CANNOT solve this problem detaining youth from the streets just for the tatooes and sending them to jail with charges. They'll be out in a short time with "new knowledge" of what to do.
It also probably serves as a tool to achieve political goals. It initimates people and move them toward the "protection" of the government.
Finally, in the chaos there are people who benefit (en rio revuelto ganancia de pescadores).
Anonymous said…
If we gonna talk of a comprehensive solution to the gang problem, then I think that is possible. Seems the government is doing an admirable job in addressing the problem .It is not easy.Citizens should support the Saca government if it had to succeed in its policy.The church too has to come into the picture.Evangelicals always have great youth programs .I hope and pray they can reach out to this segment of society. The police will have to be supported too,both by the government and the citizens.The business sectors may continue to sponsor outreach programs ,with themes such as sports or music and dance.The media can hop along too and come up with engaging stuff, campaigns against drugs, against delinquency and even coming up with national TV events or game shows that can draw this particular crowd and encourage every youth to be a role model.The NGO's can put up youth centers to process the needs of these young groups ,whether they need counseling, or a part time job, or direction.. Bring them all into the light so to speak. But who would do this? The government alone cant. All sectors of society have to come together because this is a "corporate responsibility." Last but not the least: The Home.The Family. We can never underestimate the role that families play in preventing juvenile delinquency. And I think this is where education and employment come in. Educate ( by means of livelihood training and parenting seminars ) and employ the parents, so to prevent youth problems. That should make for smarter and stronger families.And a better nation.Hopefully.
If these things will still be counterproductive, then it might as well be saying there's the dead end. No more back door too. Gangs will be here to stay .Now , that is truly sad. Go figure.
I really admire the President Saca administration for the policies on gang problem. It is a positive step.Support it.
Hodad said…
Hola, me again, that 'el gringo loco' ok, I lived in a gang neighbourhood for 1 1/2 years 14thstreet in Santa Tecla, in 1996, and when this first started , this ‘gang problem’ the 1st jefe of MS, Granios (dec.)
I allowed him to have his b’day party at My beach house, in Playa San Diego,( this was a situation and trying to be copasetic in regards to my Club Business at theta time, and he was a NICE GUY}
This was a place i lived for 4 years where none of the city folks cared to go except on Saturday nights, another, of course these hard line attitudes, do not work as most that are posting read the stats on the young men in Iraq and the Muslim world now, and actually most young men.
common sense dictates their responses to authority and their current attitudes and yes here in the good ole USA the youth are basically not worth a shit, and ask mostly all even here in Redneck Riviera of the problem of finding competent help. non -existent mainly, they do not want to work, where as in MY OPINION ‘guanacos’ are the hardest working people on this planet!!
so all this is a reflection on CURRENT WORLD TRENDS
with the disassociated youth and surely as ‘Walrus’ said, a lack of faith and spiritual direction is needed, not the churches fault, not even the parent's
best to throw away ALL television and get them to read, [easier said than done], (I am blessed, my Mom since we were young were taught, "books are your friends")
but too many ipods, and myspace and wanna be rock and rollers, no matter the language,nor culture the music is the same
I am not a fan of evangelicals, and this Jesus mentality of 'oh my God we are all gonna die, hell fire and brimstone is coming, rapture, plagues, locusts, etc, etc etc." nah, forget it church is for old folks,,,,,
they are too smart for that,
Believe me.
Basically most is the macho attitudes coupled with the ‘jackass, gotta prove it to my hommies, by doing something outrageous, and or stupid, same thing’

Then again as I have said before, none of these punks surf, like I have been blessed with for the past 42 years, and the main reason I live in ES, the best waves on THIS planet,
As far as faith and religion, well of course the Catholic church is basically evil, especially in Latin America for the past 500 years,
[Forget it all, you will lose any debate with me on this one]
Not because I am Buddhist, [which comes to part of my solution]
But because ,because….

Part of MY gig as proposed, is to
1. Teach any that want to know how to fish, hommies especially as it will give a sense of worth [back to the old adage of ‘teach a man to fish….’] how to fish and make some bux..
[With this you get el gringo’s plan if you work with me in this sustainable fishing thing ]
2. Learn English
[now, all you so-called scholars, what does learning another language does for brain development in young folks, duh?]
[Ok, you say, well they are mainly deportees, well guess what? Most ,[ok all you wanna-be statisticians, what IS the percentage Of those deported that cannot speak, write, or read English?] why?
Because they lived in Spanish speaking barrios in the USA and had not much reason to learn INGLES
[of course except for questionable effective vocabulary such as Motherfucker, ceroteshithead, beer, Marlboro, etc.]
3. I propose also to show them yoga and a type of meditation for healing they can go home and show their grandma’s and grandpa’s and sisters and even hommies, and be proud of that, these things are easy but effective and are for the betterment of individual persons and some other positive learnings, community gardens, street watch, help old folks etc.
[ I was always able to do more pull-ups and situps than any, had a sign on my house, no one ever won that case of beer-sodas, whatever] now quine sabes?

Not pushing my agenda nor faith, I just think it is better to promote positvo more than the negative
, just an added bonus, better to be in some sort of FREE night school than out running around SI?
And then they can say to one another, ha MF I learned more than you today!!! Haha
At least it is worth the effort, and I will also volunteer to -FIND SOME VOLUNTEERS-, to teach these ‘bangers ‘how to swim, again, (remember we know this when we are born, we just forget) and surf,
Do not worry, we can get equipment donated, gifted etc.

And then with this , maybe the sense of a POITIVE community can be developed within these existing organized networks.
Not all these guys want to do bad, they just need redirection of adolescent energies.
[And so all you ‘old farts’ posing on these blogs, ask yourselves, ummmm what kind of crap did I get away with, and not get caught when I was young? Huh!]

But back to this original precept
Heavy handedness only creates animosity and anger against the state and the system
And creates tensions that can be avoided with understanding, patience and compassion
The police in ES actually do quite well considering they are not paid squat and put their lives on the line each day. And many,most came from these same socio-economic backgrouns, and see better than to spend time just locking some one up beacise of tatoos and haircuts
Lot of this is the LEGAL SYSTEM’S FAULT. Why, more ‘criminals’ more money for them, but you all know my adage when it comes to lawyers, best use is fish bait , anway

We will see and
Time will tell
Vamos a ver
Viva La Gente, Viva El Salvador…

Anonymous said…
The gangs are product of the same shit ass system that lead to the wars, and the reason the super gov ain't doin nothing about them is because they profit from the gangs, the gangs are the ones that mobilize the drugs, that sell them, that pass the money to the money laundering mafias, they are also the reason why thousands of security agencies exist in this country, so some mafioso can make a buck out of the chaos. You know it is to wonder how many coppers ditch being a cop out of bad payment, bad equipment and actually decide to: migrate, become a soldier, become a private securty guard. Just look at the army, this year's budget has risen to 111 MILLION DOLLARS!

And people like gapgirl say the gov is doing a ok? Please, it is because of their carelessness, their imeptitude that families fragment and all, they left the marabunta spawn to such incredible sizes that now narcoambassador Berkley open his mouth to criticize the gov (yeah, perfect timing, I believe he is leaving shortly, isn't he?). While he basically opened his mouth what thousands of people have said before him, before the problem reached these heights. But yeah, he being from USA, having access to the spy den in Comalapa, why don't the gringos pull the plug out of all the corrupt officers that suppoert the cartels, the mafias, the gangs that operate in whole latin america and also steal from the country thusly preventing any real social programs that could prevent people from joining the gangs? USA has the power, but no. What they've been doing is increasing the deportations, which imo in jails filled with Mexican MAfias, just makes them criminals get a Master's Degree in destruciton and death.

BWT, hodad, I dunno if it is me, but as you say in this country the gang culture isn't placed in some sort of pedestal. And I actually doubt many of the native gang members have much access to the "violent" and glorifying media you talk about, and even then I am not sure of its effect specially because I myself have been enveloped by said media for a well portion of my life, and I haven't turned into a gang-banger, or anything similar.

The reason? My family, and I do have an economic netting that sustains me. THAT is what many of those peeps that turn to violence are lacking. Resent the system that gots you punked, resent the system that marginalizes you and doesn't make it easy for you to accomplish your ambitions. Take the easy street, steal and then see where you go from there...

As said, gang problem is just a legacy of the inefficient, artificial, elitist society that has predominated in our country, add to that that many of the gangnbangers are ex-combatants in a war where it was AOK to rape women, cut their breasts, cut men's genitals, shove them up their mouths, etc. So the degradation from then on was sure, specially when the country is incapable of sustaining the population, reason why people keep reproducing live bunnies and migrating.

BTW, I agree somewhat with you. All religion are filled with bigotry and has turned to business, and the Vatican has destroyed all humanitarian currents like liberation theology that could act for the betterment of society, keeping the same old Inquisition, pro-money peeps in the helm. But I don't believe this is exculusive to the Cahtolic Church, people like Pat Robertson, and Jim Bakker prove. Nor Buddhists nor the the Muslims are free from corruption.

Yah, pity isn't it?
Anonymous said…
There is a danger far more dangerous than all gangs all put together .The human heart. Guard your heart.And never lose hope. Anger and bitterness cloud analysis and envy is absolutely counterproductive. Putting blame ( i.e., blame God, blame all religions, blame governments, blame the rich, blame the gangs ) ...that actually is the very act that hampers, that hinders and puts out the flame of hope.Give hope rather than give up.
Each man has a choice.Each nation has its destiny to fulfill. What do you do.
Anonymous said…

Shame on you for using the El Salvador’s gang crisis as a tool for proselytizing. Your assertion that making El Salvador more religious (it is already one of the most religious countries in the world) would reduce the gang problem is completely self-serving and has no basis in reality.

Gregory Paul in the Journal of Religion & Society published by Creighton University (a Jesuit institution) showed that religiosity has a positive correlation with social dysfunction (homocide, teen pregnancy and abortions, infant mortality, etc).

Does this show that religiosity is the cause of social dysfunction in El Salvador? – of course not. But to suggest that religion is the solution is absurd.
Anonymous said…
gapgirl, I invite you to take your preaching (pep talk) to the streets of El Salvador. If in any given occassion you already are, good for you. But in my opinion, who believes that gangs and crime can be dropped considerably if you improve the life quality of EVERY DAMN PERSON in a country be it in the rural or urban areas, believe that your talk even though nice sounding, is fruitless.

People went to war because they were being screwed by the status quo, and the same SICK AND GANGRENOUS status quo is which produced and fortified the gangs with HUGE POTENTIAL MEMBERS. Man, this country should cut the infected members before the whole body is contaminated... 2/5s of the country and counting?

By the way, if your pep talk was directed to me... Don't bother. As previously mentioned, I had a good upbrining, have an economic netting, and have no physical anchor in this country. As easily I am here, I could go elsewhere and resume my life. And THAT is the benefit of EDUCATION. Tell that to the people with low income that have been marginalized by society.
Anonymous said…
Oops. I forgot. They STILL refuse to remain stationary and migrate to meet whatever fate/destiny/God/Allah/Elohim Elchai/Buddha/Logos/Tao/Kali has stored for them. Or better, change their fortune (whatever they are supposed to be satisfied with in El Salvador).

They do that, and in absence of a dignifying life, follow the teachings of the white-collars criminals and break the law.