Where gang violence does not exist
PRI published a report today on small towns in the department of Chalatenango where the gang violence which afflicts many other areas of El Salvador is nonexistent. The towns share a history of bloodshed during El Salvador's civil war and community organization dating back to organized opposition during the war years:
There are about a dozen towns in Chalatenango where crime has been largely non-existent. They all share a history of massacres and civic participation. These towns are also small, with populations of about 4,000. For the most part, they’ve remained isolated from the rest of the country, along long and curvy roads. But that’s starting to change.
Another 45-minute drive away from San Antonio de Los Ranchos, along a brand new highway, is the town of Nueva Trinidad. On a recent day, residents from a handful of nearby communities met here to discuss their public security strategies.
Teachers spoke about the need for after-school workshops to keep kids occupied. Mayors debated efforts to get funding for local development projects.
Finally, the local police sergeant gave everyone an update on local crime trends.Earlier this week ContraPunto highlighted San José Las Flores, also in Chalatenango. In the town ContraPunto labels a place "without violence or disenchantment," the characteristics of a history of war, a community which is well organized, and a certain isolation have also produced a location free of murders. It's a success story attributable as well to long-running international accompaniment from the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts and the Spanish government.
There have been some petty crimes around town, he says. Maybe the locals should consider manning a 24-hour security station at the entrance to town? (more)
Both the PRI and ContraPunto stories point to the newly constructed "northern longitudinal highway" as bringing both the benefits and the perils of easier connection to the rest of the country.
Perhaps these towns in rural El Salvador, with their strong base of community organization, can provide one model for other communities looking to escape gang violence.