Killing to Belong

Gang violence in El Salvador

Killing to Belong American gangs have turned El Salvador into a battlefield, destroying lives and communities in their search for belonging.
A group of girls in their early teens giggle together, recalling a fond memory. They’re describing how they butchered a member of a rival gang. “They stabbed him, got a brick and crushed his head and then threw the body in a ditch,” translates our interpreter. There are now approximately 50,000 gang members in El Salvador. The gangs originated in the Salvadorian quarter in Los Angeles. When America deported their members, they shipped the gangs to El Salvador. The result has been devastating. A third of the capital’s residents have been raped, seriously assaulted or robbed at gun point. The violence has even spread to the countryside. The abandoned village of El Changuite is 200 miles from the capital. It was deserted after a 13 year old resident was kidnapped, ransomed and murdered by gangs. The violence has reached epidemic proportions and the authorities are fighting back. Will Salgado, Mayor of San Miguel, was accused of executing 30 gang members. He remains unrepentant: “People are coming here looking for someone with enough courage and guts to continue the extrajudicial killings.” However, until the authorities begin to address the underlying problems, the violence will continue.

A report from Sandra Jordan for Unreported World.

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