• Gary White

The Northern Triangle - Part 2: El Salvador

Updated: Jan 10, 2020

Why do Salvadorans flee their homeland?

Simply put, though the journey to asylum is long and sometimes dangerous, for some Salvadorans it’s far more dangerous to stay where they are. The threat faced by Salvadorans at home can be summarized in two words: Gang violence. The activities of rival gangs MS13 and 18th Street have given El Salvador one of the highest murder rates in the world. On average, eighteen Salvadorans are found murdered or simply disappear each day. Salvadoran gangs operate like branches of the Mafia: Fighting each other for territory, extorting protection money from local businesses, and killing with impunity. Sadly, the gang culture of El Salvador has roots in the United States. During a 12-year civil war that began in 1980, hundreds of Salvadoran families sought asylum in the States. Living in poverty in inner-city Los Angeles, Salvadoran youth became active in Southern California’s gang culture. Many were arrested and deported back to El Salvador, taking their gang affiliations with them. At home they built up their numbers by recruiting bitter ex-guerillas from the civil war. The result has been savage, pervasive and virtually unchecked gang violence in the streets of El Salvador. Some see a ray of hope in the election this year of 37-year-old Nayib Bukele as El Salvador’s President. Running on an anti-establishment platform, Bukele has promised to temper gang violence by addressing its roots in economic and social injustice. He’s appealing for patience, but at the same time attempting to show quick reductions in gang activity by more extreme police action including searches, raids and general intimidation. Many say this is only adding to El Salvador's ethos of violence. Meanwhile, seekers of asylum continue northward.

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