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El Salvador's gang trouble affects the world

by Breonnah Colón - Editor in Chief
Tue, Sep 18th 2018 02:00 pm

 

Living in the United States, it is hard not to be familiar with the constant “wars” our government wages on certain social issues that need to be addressed. One of the most well-known social wars currently taking place in the U.S. is the “war on drugs.” According to drugpolicy.org, the “war on drugs” was first introduced in the year 1971 by then-president Richard Nixon. 

This war was and remains to be a controversial topic in the United States because some view the crackdown to be focused more on demographics rather than the abuse of narcotics, which could prove harmful to the general public. The war on drugs tends to be associated with communities with very little income, particularly where people of color reside. 

These communities seem to suffer, not just with the illegal distribution and use of drugs, but with the presence of gang violence. Much of the violence takes place as a result of turf wars over where drugs are being sold. As citizens of the U.S., this social war, which turns physical quite easily, is one of the issues that we can transfix on. After all, this situation is one that impacts thousands of Americans across the nation. 

However, the U.S. is not the only country in the world struggling to address the issue of gang violence and drugs within its communities. There is a country nearby dealing with an even more extreme form of the war on drugs. 

El Salvador made the list for the “World’s Most Dangerous Countries” in 2017, according to independent.co.uk, the reason El Salvador was placed on this list is due to the gang violence that results in homicides that have been plaguing the country for years. 

“[El Salvador] has one of the highest homicide levels in the world, in addition to the many gangs that infiltratethe country,” the site explains.

These gangs have been terrorizing citizens of El Salvador and while many Americans may consider this to be too far from home, the truth of the matter is these gangs have been spreading across the world and have infiltrated other nations - including the U.S. An article from msn.com explained that in the 80s El Salvador experienced a civil war, which caused many young El Salvadorians to flee and enter the U.S. Once in the country, some of these migrants lived in areas already plagued by gang violence. As a result, they began to be targeted by American gangs and took to their own as a form of support and defense. This was the beginning of the presence of the Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, created in the U.S.

As the U.S. is prone to do, the country deported thousands of El Salvadorians, forcing them to return to their country. Some of those deported were already part of the gang life.Upon returning they became even more invested in the already prevalent gang violence, heightening the dangers facing innocent civilians. The media coverage following this mass deportation put the gang in the limelight, giving them notoriety and causing them to become even more appealing to at risk youth. MS-13 is known for its extreme violence, drugs and human trafficking. As scary as this organization may seem, it is only one of several gangs wreaking havoc on the citizens of El Salvador.

Much like the U.S.’s response to gang violence, the President of El Salvador also pushed for stronger response to the presence of gangs. According to The New York Times, president Salvador Sánchez Cerén swore to carry out “extraordinary measures” against the gangs, an announcement which was not taken well. 

Civilians are the ones who are most deeply impacted by this situation for a plethora of reasons. First, MS-13 didn’t even exist in El Salvador, but instead was brought there as a result of severe immigration laws. The government of the country has been unable to combat the atrocities committed by these gangs, leaving civilians to fend for themselves and, when that fails and they try to seek asylum, are denied access to enter the U.S.

Immigration is a tough topic and is an issue which has 

become quite controversial in the U.S. Recently, the Trump administration has passed immigration reforms which would once again call for El Salvadorians to go back to their country. It is our duty as Americans not to see ourselves as just Americans of the United States, but also Americans of the continents of North and South America, which is where we get our name from after all. Our own country has bred and heightened what became one of the deadliest gangs in the world. Rather than attempt to deal with that, we have been punishing innocent people who have been forced to deal with devastating living conditions. It is about time we begin to realize our country is connected to others and begin to open our hearts and minds, if not our borders, to our brothers and sisters living in the other America.

 

stylus@brockport.edu |@b_co___