El Salvador: Children escaping gangs

Since their civil war began in 1980 and ended in 1992, El Salvador has not been able to recover itself economically which has caused a significant increase in violence and insecurity.

El Salvador has 36.5 percent (2010 est) of its population living below the poverty line and a 6.3 percent unemployment rate. With the global recession, real GDP in 2009 economic growth has since remained low, averaging less than 2 percent from 2010 to 2013.

According to the United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security,  El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in the world. Crimes range from credit card skimming, home invasions and extortion to homicide, and creates an unpredictable, gang-centric environment directed against both known victims and targets of opportunity. Daylight is not a significant deterrent because crime occurs 24 hours a day and nobody is exempt from being a target.

Twenty-four percent of the 65,005 children entering the United States illegally are from El Salvador. Find out why.

El Salvador, with six million people, has hundreds of gangs totaling more than 20,000 members. Some of the most well-known and largest gangs are the 18th Street (Barrio 18) and MS-13 (“Mara Salvatrucha”). Gangs deal with narcotics and arms trafficking, murder, carjacking, extortion and violent street crime.

El Salvador had 2,492 murders in 2013 with the per capita murder rate at 43.3 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador was rated the 27th most violent city in the world.

In 2013 there was an increment of 93 percent of people reported missing with 1, 070 cases. A great number of these disappearances were believed to be related to gangs because it is believed that many of them were friends of family of gang members. In El Salvador, the family of the members face the same risk of kidnapping and murder as the gang members themselves.

The question of whether gang members were killing and hiding victims in remote locations came up when 25 clandestine graves were discovered. If this is the case, the homicide rate will be higher than what it is officially reported.

Rape is another present concern. From 2010 to 2012 there were an average of 461 rapes reported each year. Local police and judicial experts estimate that less than 30 percent of rapes are reported.

Source:  Congressional Resource Service, the United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the World Factbook.

View the Congressional Resource Service’s report: El Salvador-Political and Economic Conditions and U.S Relations.

(Written and compiled by Paulina Fuentes)

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