Latin America continued–El Salvador

I had not planned on writing about El Salvador since I have only passed through the airport one time. But an opinion piece by the El Salvadoran ambassador to the United States in the Christian Science Monitor this morning caught my eye. I thought I would do a bit of research then comment on the article.

First, some background:

Here is a good overview, courtesy of the BBC.

El Salvador contains more than twenty active volcanoes which cause all sorts of misery in this Massachusetts-sized country.

Here’s a synopsis of recent stories and details from the New York Times, InfoPlease and, of course, the all-encompassing CIA Factbook. Please note that El Salvador is the only country in Central America with no outlet to the Caribbean/Atlantic, exports electricity, is a drug transshipment point, and is a refiner of petroleum products which it then exports:

Ambassador Zamora lays out the problem of gang-related violence, then proceeds to propose his opinion of what needs to be done in a country that was until recently one of the murder capitals in the world. In a nutshell, he says that past attempts to curb violence have been military and police hard-line crackdowns which are violent in themselves.

As the above articles have pointed out for you, violence in El Salvador has been greatly reduced recently due primarily to a truce with the gangs– not a continuing war with the gangs.

He sees the need for a regional approach which would, of course, involve the United States. Here is where I see some difficulty for the good ambassador. The United States government has, in my not-so-humble opinion, dealt with drugs with the same hard-line military and police approach rather than attempt to attack the reasons people use drugs. Trying to ameliorate the miserable conditions in the barrios/ghettos/ public housing blocks and youth-marginalization in our respective countries seem a more positive way of dealing with drugs, the drug trade and the associated drug-related crime. This would better benefit our citizens instead of filling prisons and shooting people.

See what you think. Is there a lesson to be learned for the United States?

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