Caramundo projects in El Salvador
Facts on El Salvador
El Salvador is a tiny country in Central America. With almost 7 million inhabitants it represents one of the most densely populated, but also one of the poorest and most violent countries of the region.
A long vicious civil war came to an end in 1992. Until 2009, the right-wing party Arena dominated the political front.
In the presidential election of March 2009, the first leftist FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes defeated his conservative rival and El Salvador joined a growing number of Latin American countries that has elected leftist governments. After the election, streets were filled with Salvadorans celebrating this long-awaited victory. Many Salvadorans have great expectations from the upcoming government.
Despite new hopes for the future, the country suffers from natural disasters, high social inequality (over half of Salvadorans live in poverty), unemployment and everyday gang violence. Urban youth are the ones that suffer most from these problems. In San Salvador, the country’s largest capital with nearly one million inhabitants, gangs (known as ‘maras’) grow in overcrowded urban areas. An estimated 11.000 young people are active gang members and gangs seem to be responsible for nearly 60% of all murders committed annually. Regionally, the estimated murder rate per 100,000 people was roughly 56 in El Salvador, 41 in Honduras, and 38 in Guatemala.
Poverty, social exclusion, and the absence of educational and job opportunities are the main reasons why many youth at risk feel they have no options but to join a gang.
Instead of focusing on creating opportunities and tackling the underlying causes, political measures have been purely repressive and have in fact marginalized young people even more.
For example, under the law ‘Super Mano Dura’, any tattooed young person can be put in prison for no reason other than carrying a tattoo! It is estimated that in 2005, more than 10,000 of some 14,000 suspected gang members that were arrested were later released because of lack of evidence.