El Salvador

El Salvador


Citizen Security in Central America: Root Causes and New Approaches

In December, the U.S. Congress approved a big increase in aid to Central America’s “Northern Triangle” countries – El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The US$750 million seeks to address the so-called “root causes” of violence that is now so severe that over 111,000 children from these three countries were apprehended in the United States or Mexico, while traveling unaccompanied, just between June 2014 and December 2015.

In this podcast by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), the hosts look at the causes of Central America’s insecurity crisis and how the United States has chosen to respond. They look at some of the concerns in Congress and elsewhere about political will, corruption, and human rights, and discuss strategies that can help Central Americans feel safer where they live—without repeating the ineffective and military-heavy approaches of the past.

They are joined by:

  • Geoff Thale, WOLA’s Program Director;
  • Adriana Beltrán, WOLA’s Senior Associate for Citizen Security;
  • José Luis Sanz of El Salvador’s El Faro ; and
  • Héctor Silva Avalos of American University.

For full access to the podcast about Citizen Security in Central America: Root Causes and New Approaches, kindly follow the link.


Policy and Research Papers

What Works in Reducing Community Violence: Spotlight on Central America and Mexico

The Wilson Center’s Latin American Program is pleased to launch an innovative report from Harvard’s Kennedy School that identifies promising strategies for reducing community violence and suggests how evidenced-informed policy options might be adapted to high violence areas in Mexico and Central America. 

For full access to the report on What Works in Reducing Community Violence: Spotlight on Central America and Mexico, kindly follow the link. 


Amérique Centrale : L'insécurité endémique des pays du triangle Nord

Cet article se penche sur la région d'Amérique Latine appelée « Triangle nord » (Guatemala, Honduras et Salvador), qui est devenue l’une des plus dangereuses au monde. Il souligne le rôle de l’échec des politiques de lutte contre les gangs, mais également de la pauvreté, de la corruption et de l’impunité dans l'aggravation de la violence. 

Pour accéder à l'étude Amérique Centrale : L'insécurité endémique des pays du triangle Nord, veuillez cliquer sur le lien.


The Gradual Emergence of Second Generation Security Sector Reform in El Salvador

First generation security sector reform (SSR) was implemented in El Salvador following the end of the civil war. Despite institutional reforms, Salvadoran SSR remains unfinished. Today, 12 years after the deployment of the new civilian police force, El Salvador is plagued by crime and violence. New strategies are necessary to increase the effectiveness of the security and justice sector to control crime and address insecurity, a primary objective of SSR. This paper argues that renewed SSR should address violence and crime through local initiatives that can then inform the national debate and policy-making process. In that perspective, it looks at two initiatives that were put in place in recent years to address crime and violence in El Salvador: the US Central America Regional Security Initiative and the gang truce. These efforts point to the need to rethink how security is delivered and how the state can tackle crime and violence. Most importantly, the case of El Salvador demonstrates that non-state criminal actors who play an important role in the control of communities cannot be left out of the picture when it comes to violence control and SSR. As such, donors and policy makers must rethink how to deal with those armed actors and adopt more flexible, less state-centric strategies that are more likely to bear results.

For full access to the report The Gradual Emergence of Second Generation Security Sector Reform in El Salvador, kindly follow the link.


Mafia of the Poor: Gang Violence and Extortion in Central America

Central American gangs are responsible for brutal acts of violence, abuse of women and forced displacement of thousands. Based on interviews with officials and experts in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, this report discusses new forms of regional collaboration in law enforcement among the countries of the Northern Triangle.

For full access to the paper, Mafia of the Poor: Gang Violence and Extortion in Central America, kindly follow the link. 


Women and ‘New Wars’ in El Salvador

The most violent countries in the world are increasingly countries considered ‘at peace’. From Honduras to Mexico to South Africa, armed violence, often by gangs, has led to high levels of casualties. Disruption of daily life due to armed violence is similar to the challenges experienced during wartime, though often without the markers or recognition associated with war. With gang violence primarily viewed as a domestic criminal issue, external support for conflict mitigation and humanitarian assistance is often low. Yet the disruptive impact of such high rates of violence is significant, and the humanitarian impact is severe. New theoretical frameworks are needed to better problematize extreme armed violence in ‘peacetime’ states. This article seeks to bring an understanding of the severity of armed violence in states such as El Salvador into engagement with the critical and theoretical foundations of the women, peace and security (WPS) field. Gendered dynamics shape gang violence in El Salvador, and a gender lens helps reimagine its impact. Aligning critical theory with the lived experience of this subset of armed conflict allows new directions for engagement and, in particular, offers the opportunity to re-examine long-standing assumptions of what initiates, maintains, and challenges armed violence by non-state actors in communities considered ‘at peace.’ This article seeks to encourage greater debate and scholarship to inform our understandings of armed conflict and gender in communities affected by gang violence, such as those in El Salvador. In these communities, the level of violence often replicates the experiences of war, and thus a WPS lens is a critical tool for analysis.

To access the full paper, Women and ‘New Wars’ in El Salvador, kindly follow the link.



Peacebuilding and police reform

Reforms of local police forces in conflict or post-conflict areas need to be dealt with in order to create a certain level of security for the local people. This volume presents the discussions of professionals in the field of peacekeeping, civilian police activities and police reform, both academics and practitionaers, on the issue of internationally assisted police reform in transitions from war to peace. Contributions include theoretical insights and informed case studies from El Salvador and Guatamala, the Balkans, West Bank and Gaza, and Mozambique and South Africa.


Other Documents

Assessing the Impact of Orthodox Security Sector Reform in El Salvador

el salvador

This paper by the Centre for Security Governance (CSG) is part of a multi year CSG research project titled "Exploring the transition from first to second generation SSR in conflict-affected societies". In 1992, the Chapultepec peace accords brought to an end El Salvador’s civil war and laid the foundation of a profound transformation of national politics. More than 20 years later, the Salvadoran peace has been maintained, but the country remains unable to address epidemic levels of crime and violence. This report assesses the impact of orthodox SSR on peace and security in El Salvador; it evaluates the extent to which the reform process respected the core principles of SSR as conceived by key stakeholders such as the OECD-DAC. SSR in El Salvador was a modest success, based on the first generation SSR model. The reform process was locally owned and changed the security sector in several ways, contributing to the sustainability of the peace process. However, it lacked a long-term and holistic vision that would have truly transformed the security sector, while cronyism and lack of transparency remain an important issue in Salvadoran politics. As a consequence, the Salvadoran security institutions remain unable to prevent and address in a sustainable manner armed crime and violence.

To access the CSG Paper n°10 - Assessing the Impact of Orthodox Security Sector Reform in El Salvador, kindly follow the link.

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