El Salvador's image problem

The Toronto Star finished 2008 with a story listing the world's 10 worst places to live. Unfortunately for El Salvador, it made the list. The Canadian paper came up with a 10 categories -- pollution, corruption, gender gap, life expectancy, literacy, freedom of speech, dictatorship, personal security, inflation and homicide rate -- and picked a loser for each category. The countries on the list included places like Eritrea, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Yemen, Iraq and ... El Salvador. It was that last category, homicide rate, which brought El Salvador into the 10 worst places list.

The paper wrote:
Homicide rate: El Salvador

Latin America has the highest murder rate in the world for young adults, 15-24. But El Salvador tops the list of the world's most dangerous countries for the young – and has one of the highest murder rates for people of all ages, according to the Latin American Technological Information Network.

It's hard to get people to invest, to come as tourists, to do business or to buy real estate when they come across articles like that one. The numbers point to a real problem, as readers of this blog know, but the numbers don't come close to telling the whole story or justify calling El Salvador one of the "10 worst."


El-Visitador said…
Errr... actually, anyplace where you run an extraordinary risk of getting shot and killed is a pretty bad place to live.

Do you think people leave E.S. in droves just because of economic issues? Newsflash: E.S. is actually a fairly high income country by underdeveloped country standards. I think there are about 100 countries which are poorer. Per-capita income is significantly higher than all three bordering countries.

You of course grasp that no tourism beyond the symbolic can exist under this get shot and killed scenario and that much potential investment is automatically wiped out or re-priced at a higher (costlier) level.

But Saca's mental midgets don't get it. For example, there you have Rubén Rochi wasting our millions on a Sisyphean, unachievable goal. Or maybe they do get it, but enjoy their salaries and perks too much to care. Crooks.

Image problem? No way. 10 murders per day is not an "image problem." It is a disgrace, a real brake on El Salvador's future, and proof positive that Saca is our worst President yet since Duarte.
Anonymous said…
"But Saca's mental midgets don't get it."

I see the communists want to infiltrate this site with their raging propaganda as well.

Why don't you go live in North Korea, China, Cuba, Nicarauga, Venuezuela or Eritrea, etc. with your 'Comrades' so you can inflict out your froth and your genocidal marxist propaganda dictates upon others more openly instead of only through a website.
Carlos X. said…
El Visitador, a communist? Obviously, a first time reader of Tim's El Salvador Blog!

I agree with Tim, though, that El Salvador's crime rate creates/perpetuates an image problem. This is not to say, and I don't think this is what Tim is saying, that it's ONLY an image problem. What we mean when we say an image problem is that one horrible thing can eclipse all the many good things: like L.A. gangs, or N.Y. crime in the 1970s and 80s, and this creates a uniformly negative perception. This is not to say that crime itself isn't bad: in fact, this says crime is so bad, so horrible, that it sends the scale reeling. That's the image problem we're talking about.
Anonymous said…
Clearly an image problem. Very hard to fix if we don't invest in our kids and really put an end to the "Maras" problem... In all these are the consequences of a 12 year civil war...
Anonymous said…
Lets not just look at the murder rate. Take a closer look at the corruption issue; corruption both personal and institutional. I think the corruption issue is as big a turnoff to investment as the murder rate. Image is everything. Corruption like murder is a choice issue, but I think the corruption issue from a govt that won't abide by its own laws just reflects on the society as a whole. Personal corruption exists because people think that without it the won't get ahead. If it takes murder to get ahead so be it.
If no one wants to invest because they will be ripped off by the governtment you end up without the jobs that will let people live like human beings instead of animals. Without meaningful lives murder and crime happen. give people something to live for and crime tends to decrease
Anonymous said…
I'm down here as a tourist/resident for 3-4 months. I'm driving around San Salvador and the country with ease. I see malls and tons of middle-class homes. There are businesses and strip malls galore. Tourism is not the reason for being. It can help; it can be good for one's image. But I see some balance in the middle that I did not expect to see before coming this time. Sure, I see poverty, but the roads area excellent, and the place is a post-card paradise. It would not be on my top 10 worst places to live. It is also compact. Mexico, on the contrary, is relatively huge and with many parts. China and India, too. Salvador is small and compact. It's homogeneous. As one guy told me the other day, "It has a fantastic future." May God Bless the place along the way.
Basta de Casaca said…
More than image problem, it's an ACTUAL problem of being one of the most violent countries in the whole world.
That's ARENA's legacy to El Salvador after 20 years of civil dictatorship and corruption.
Anonymous said…
The person who wrote this article must have never lived in El Salvador. I was born and raised in the United States. My parents are Salvadorian. Two months ago I packed my bags and bought a one way ticket to El Salvador. So far I love it here, so much so that I want to make my life here. "El Salvadors Image Probelm" is just that...an image.
Anonymous said…
i agree with visitador. and i think it is a real, tangible problem...though there are pockets or spheres where it is worse as well as areas where it is not very imminent. however, the problem is real nevertheless, and until you are the victim yourself, you really don't see how up in your face or endangering to your daily life this can be, especially in the ghettos harrassed by extortionists.
Anonymous said…
"one of the most violent countries in the whole world.
That's ARENA's legacy to El Salvador after 20 years of civil dictatorship and corruption".

WE have in our hands one of the most violent countries measured per capita murders, yes.

But our violence predates even the existance of ARENA.

I was a small child around 1977 and went to a movie matinee on a sunday morning with my dad, and in an overpass by current Casa Presidencial, there were a good 6 people hanging from it, with notes on their chests.

A mideval sight in the middle of paradise, if you ask me.

And the list of violence stretches on an on an on during my early childhood, and it was violence perpetrated by both sides.

And Arena was formed much after all these events. So ARENA as a political party, as a defined entity did not start that.

Clearly they must have partook of it somehow after they were formed.

But every single one of us did too.

That the violence came from deaths squads? Yes. But the violence also came from the guerrilla groups. You need two for an armed confrontation, nobody shoots to his own shadow.

Case in point, we were sittin in class, and shooting started outside our school, army and guerrilla fighting. At the end, a car lay in the middle of the street with a woman dead embracing her child who was alive.

And the list goes on and on and on.....

And then peace arrives and all those violent individuals in the guerrilla and the army who fought a war of more than 15 years (because the dead started to pile up at least since 1975) went into peace but by the grace of god.....

And the weapons were never turned in 100% at the end of the war. An end that was designed by the UN as an experiment propped up by esperimental laws for europeans. The violence just kept on going without supervision there for a while under these conditions.

And immgration came with war, and the maras were born in the inner city gettoes of the United States, and they get deported back to E.S. They are not our invention, but they are the SPAWN of war and immigration, and they are painfully very much ours to not shake away so easily, as one of them is called SALVATRUCHA.

With national coat of arms tattooed in their chest......

And there is nothing that can be done about them.

So violence is not an inheritance of ARENA, it has always been there, my grandfather hiding in the sewers of old san salvador in 1932, because after all he really, really looked indian....

And my father being peppered with buck shot as he was driving, rather tipsy, in front of the Sandinista embassy in san salvador late at night while some paramilitary were attacking it. The sandinista ambassador somehow called my house and we went to pick up blood soaked daddy and took him to hospital, with a good 30 buck shots in his back. They are still there, because he made it alive.

And neither during my grandfathers hiding nor my dads peppering did the ARENA party exist.

So lets place the real blame on who is to blame.

We, the people, who are either participants, victims, silent witnesses and voters who neither are able, and even not willing, to act as a united front against violence.

Neither by means available by law, nor by any means necessary.

PD: if you blame ARENA today, somebody else will blame the FUNES FMLN formula in the future.

Because they will win the elections but the violence will not be stopped by them either.
Anonymous said…
el salvador is just a violent nation by nature, period. remember that its original inhabitants, the indians, were always at war with their neighbors, much like the hood gangs today...different groups of bloody, a la apocalypto, indians always carried raids against their enemies and sacrificed them to their gods. then the greedy spanish came and overthrew their system by replacing it with another violent, murderous, excluding one, adding the element of racism and class inferiority, thus envy, into the mix...to the point that a millenia old feeling of resentment, injustice and revenge has plagued the salvadoran population since ever. may God bring real peace, prosperity and good to unfortunate el salvador.
El-Visitador said…
« its original inhabitants, the indians, were always at war with their neighbors, much like the hood gangs today...»

This is a very good point.

As a matter of fact, a little discussed item in the history of El Salvador is that...

1. In central-western El Salvador we have all of these Mayan temples at Tazumal and San Andrés....

2. Yet it was the Pipiles, an Olmec-Aztec tribe, who the Spaniards found occupying most of the territory.

Anyone care to guess what happened to the former Mayan inhabitants?

Two words: not pretty.
Unknown said…
"« its original inhabitants, the indians, were always at war with their neighbors, much like the hood gangs today...»

This is a very good point."

It seems that dragging violence from so far back as an explanation for violence in current times is stretching things a bit.

While tribes usually follow a pattern of migration and have an impact on the expelling and displacement of other tribes in their path, in their quest for resources, this has been a globalized phenomenon since the beginning of time. And we find examples in all ancient books.

Tribes in the amazon will hunt patches of jungle until de depletion of the resources therein contained without any oposition as in the vastness of the amazon there are no other tribes to contend with.

And this might have not been the case in Central America. Nevertheless, making a connection between farming civilizations which had the use of complex mathematical instruments to guide their crop planting and who had a social and religios system of their own, and conecting them with the Maras is really doing a favor to the MAreros, who do, yes, have a social system, but are really lacking in anything that compared them to the civilizations found by the spaniards.

Hell, even the most remote amazon indian civilization is not marginal, like the maras, is not unsustainable like them, is not violent and feral, like them, and is not in perpetual search of supremacy over others and have no inclination to violent parasytic relations, like the Maras are against the rest of the people.
Anonymous said…
salvadorans are both peaceful and aggressive. peace-loving in that they detest "ES's image problem" but are deeply committed to ridding future generations of the "marero" way of life by teaching children to live wisely...and i've witnessed it. salvadorans are aggressive in their mentality and behavior due to a history of exploitation by their own kind (structure/rulers). as my good american friend commented when we traveled there to study ES's history some years ago "salvadorans [referring to the people not the government] are unlike any other latin american due to their protest instinct that arises when they see exploitation coming their way...they will not take s#@t from nobody!" “well said” i commented.

the aforementioned article hit the nail on its head in that ES DOES have an image problem from an outsider’s point of view. how to fix it? support a new government. as the saying goes if looks like a duck and quack likes a duck, it’s a duck! Stop supporting the current lame duck administration.

my findings on ES: a strong tradition in the sciences (engineering particularly), arts, polity, and economics (strong capitalist).

ES DESPERATELY NEEDS A NEW ADMINISTRATION THAT IS FOCUSED ON RIDDING THE COUNTRY OF SUCH IMAGE-TEARING PROBLEMS...it must act promptly and swiftly. that is the challenge of the 21st century facing ES. in retrospect, ARENA has had two decades. allow the FMLN the opportunity to make their mark. until they’ve ruled criticisms about their so called “potential failure” are just thoughts roaming in the head as clouds do in the sky.
Anonymous said…
"my findings on ES: a strong tradition in the sciences (engineering particularly), arts, polity, and economics (strong capitalist)."

What findings? What are you talking about?

Try to make sense at least
Anonymous said…
BTW, for what it's worth, I went back to check out the original article that named El Salvador among the "10 worst places to live" in the world, right along Iraq, Somalia and North Korea! The list was totally not credible and was probably motivated by some ulterior motive. Left out of the list: Sudan, Gaza and Cuba. Apparently, mass genocide, being walled in by your enemy (Gaza) or by your own govt (Cuba) is not as bad as having some crime.
Anonymous said…
Anonymous said…
I am a tourist looking for places to visit that are not typical tourist destinations. I specifically sought out blogs of this type to find out about El Salvador. The article placing El Salvador in the top ten worst places on the planet resonates with folks like me. Nobody wants to go on vacation and get shot.