Crime and prevention

Andres Oppenheimer, the Miami Herald columnist who writes about Latin America, recently wrote about the crime problem in El Salvador and where the policies of El Salvador and the US should focus:
El Salvador's homicide rate of 68 killings a year per 100,000 inhabitants -- the world's highest after Iraq -- is followed within the region by Guatemala with 45 homicides, Colombia and Honduras with 43, and Venezuela with 41. By comparison, the U.S. homicide rate is 5.7 per 100,000 inhabitants, the study says.

And from what I heard from international experts and government officials during a visit here last week, a major increase in the number of U.S. deportations of undocumented migrants with criminal records is swelling the ranks of the unemployed in Central America, and further driving up crime rates.

''A friend of mine was robbed at gunpoint on a bus three times within one week,'' Acevedo told me. ``I've been luckier: I have only been robbed once, also at gunpoint, when I stopped my car at a red light.''

More than 17,500 Salvadorans -- including 5,500 with criminal records -- have been deported from the United States back to this country since the beginning of the year, a 10 percent increase from last year, government figures show. Many of the deportees are gang members who later return -- illegally -- to the United States.

What should the Obama administration do, I asked several law enforcement experts here. Most agreed that Central America is getting too little of the $400 million Mérida Initiative U.S. aid package to help combat violence in Mexico and Central America. They also complained that most of the U.S. aid is focused on anti-drug equipment such as speedboats, rather than on crime prevention.

The most effective way to combat the gangs is through education and prevention, by sponsoring activities such as nightly sports games that keep young people off the streets, most of them said.

My Opinion: In a May 23 campaign speech in Miami, Obama rightly stated that ``The Mérida Initiative does not invest enough in Central America, where much of the trafficking and gang activity begins.''

I agree. But it's also time to step up transnational anti-gang efforts, take stronger actions to prevent U.S. arms trafficking, and change the focus of U.S. anti-crime measures toward more education and crime prevention programs. Increasingly, crime in Central America has become far more than a local issue. Increasingly, it's a U.S. problem.


Anonymous said…
Crime is a major problem in El Salvador I know that's a understatement.

to have more US involvement in crime prevention. would be nice and crime would be dropped dramatically even to have the presence of US forces.
but does Obama even care about El Salvador? only if the FMLN win next year.
Anonymous said…
Displaced and broken families and communities, a legacy of the region's civil wars, should be fundamentally addressed. The absurdity of the U.S. military somehow now fixing El Salvador's homicide problem, when the U.S. either directly sponsered or turned a blind eye to waves of extrajudicial assasinations and mass killings in the 1980s defies comprehension.

A comprehensive hemispheric strategy dealing with the fundamental requirements of human development and security, beginning with meeting the needs of education, housing, health care, and gainful employment are the only reasonable steps toward solutions.
Anonymous said…
WOLA just issued a new report on community-based anti-mara programs.
El-Visitador said…
«The most effective way to combat the gangs is through education and prevention, by sponsoring activities such as nightly sports»

Wow, talk about naiveness.

Yeah, like the U.S. did away with capone and the Mafia via midnight basketball games. Right.

Give me a break. The Mafia gets broken down via vigorous and professional investigation and prosecutions.

«The establishment of the United States Organized Crime Strike Force made it more possible to find and prosecute the Mafia.
The Strike Force was established in the 1960s [...[ It was responsible for investigating and eventually helping to bring down high level Mafiosos such as Joseph Aiuppa of the Chicago Outfit, Anthony Salerno of the Genovese Family of New York and Paul Castellano of the Gambino Family. Also, the Strike Force took down and cleaned up much of the Organized Crime in The Teamsters across the country