El Salvador’s Plan to Defeat Gangs Must Start With the Youth: Article Review

El Salvador has struggled with gang violence for years. These “maras” have recently been growing more bold and more hostile, and have even taken to assaulting people in broad daylight. Many citizens have been forced to flee their homes, and the places they end up are not likely to be any safer.

It seems that much of this is due to the actions of the US. Heavy deportations of gang members from the Los Angeles area forced the majority of them to accumulate in areas across the border. Gang leaders were able to quickly recruit poverty stricken youths  and working class families, and subsequently took over many poor areas in and around El Salvador. Now, their territory is vast and overwhelming and threatens the lives of thousands of people.

The author of the article, Róger Lindo, suggests that the best way to confront this problem is to focus on the youth. He states in the article,

“It will not be an easy task. Gangs were allowed to grow and expand throughout the country for almost two decades, and the main goal has to be to neutralize their ability to recruit young people. This is where the main impact of the program should be, and a course of action must be defined so that the force of the plan is felt right away. The government could focus, for example, in transforming schools into safe havens, where children and youngsters could be free from the influence of gangs, and educated in a culture of learning and peace.”

This is much easier said than done. Appointing armed guards at schools to protect the students would be a dangerous and ill sought after job. And that protection would cease to exist as soon as the children left the school. This issue is far too deeply rooted to be solved through lectures about peace while in turn sending these children right back into danger at the end of every school day.

It will be interesting, however, to see the kind of solution that El Salvador comes up with, but until then, the United States should offer some sort of financial assistance seeing as how we were stimulated the problem in the first place.

Posted by Sophie Terry



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