Gang truce in El Salvador translates peace model to Honduras

 

With an estimated 64,000 identified gang members, El Salvador’s street gangs – Mara Salvatrucha and their rival Barrio 18 – operate like armies. At its peak, in 2009, the gangs were responsible for a homicide rate that reached 14 deaths per day. In March 2012, however, the country’s two most violent gangs suddenly declared a truce. The truce is backed by the Catholic Church and the Organization of American States (OAS). A year later, the truce in El Salvador, one of the most violent countries in the Americas, is crumbling. A recent report shows a spike in homicide rate. The unprecedented truce helped bring murders down to an average of five per day from twelve before the agreement. However, killings have been on the rise since late May, with 103 murders in the first week of July alone. The level of dispersion of violence has stayed the same, and the decrease in homicides did not occur in all municipalities. In fact, in some areas the rates have increased.

Several Salvadoran municipalities have taken social reinsertion measures in order to promote a culture of peace. The Program of Temporary Support and Income (PATI) give at-risk youth, men and women financial incentive of $100 per month in exchange for a six-hour day of labor in their communities. The mayor of Ilopango and Quezaltepeque – the two municipalities most recently declared free of violence – affirmed that this program will benefit 67,400 people – including ex-gang members – in 36 municipalities around the country. Another municipality, Apopa, has declared zero homicides since the truce began.  In addition, President Mauricio Funes said $18 million would be spent creating cooperatives in the country’s peace zones; another $4.3 million will be invested in giving gang members access to education and $9.3 million to provide health care, and a final $798,000 will be spent on violence prevention measures.

The gang truce model has been adapted to other regions in the Northern Triangle. Honduras, with the highest murder rate in the world, is home to tens of thousands of transnational gang members, and nearly 40 percent of the cocaine consumed globally passes through its borders. Recently, the MS13 and Barrio 18 gangs declared a cease fire as a part of a ‘peace process’. MS13 and Barrio 18 leaders claim that these efforts are in attempt to “halt the spiraling drug violence and criminality they [gangs] have brought to the region” in exchange for rehabilitation programs and jobs provided by the government.

The Seattle International Foundation supports organizations in the region such as Organization for Youth Empowerment in Honduras, and Fundacion de la Comunicacion para el Desarrollo  in El Salvador providing leadership development opportunities for at-risk youth in response to high levels of organized crime and lack of educational and economic opportunities.

The Seattle International Foundation (SIF) is working with corporations, foundations, governments, and individuals to alleviate poverty in Central America. Since 2008, SIF has invested more than $7 million in organizations working for positive social change throughout the region. For more information about SIF, visit www.seaif.org

Americas Quarterly Launches second annual Social Inclusion Index

 

Photo: Americas Quarterly

Washington D.C.  – On July 24, the America Society/Council of the Americas held a pre-publication briefing of the second annual Social Inclusion Index, to be released in summer issue of the Americas Quarterly.

The 2013 Social Inclusion Index evaluates 16 countries in the Western Hemisphere on access to public and private goods by race/ethnicity and gender, attitudes toward empowerment and government responsiveness, and the protection of basic civil, political, and human rights.

The Index adds three new variables and four additional countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Panama), as well as new data on race and gender pertaining to women’s rights, LGBT rights, and financial inclusion. The publication of the Index was supported in part by the Seattle International Foundation.

At the event, AS/COA leadership provided an overview of findings and analysis of results for women and LGBT rights, financial access, and comparison to homicide rates in Central America. A discussion followed, with input from regional experts from the Inter-America Development Bank (IDB) and The World Bank. Introductory Remarks were given by Mauricio Vivero, CEO of the Seattle International Foundation.

To view the webcast of the pre-publication briefing please click here.

The 2013 Social Inclusion Index will be available starting July 31 at www.americasquarterly.org/socialinclusion2013 .

For more information, visit http://www.as-coa.org/issue-category/social-inclusion-development

Examining women’s leadership in Guatemala

 

Seattle University and the Seattle International Foundation carried out a research trip in June with ten student research fellows — myself included — to assess the impact of Generando, one of SIF’s grantees working to end violence against women. One of SIF’s priority strategies is to invest in women leaders from civil society in Central America as means to attain sustainable, systematic, and structural change across all sectors of society.

Photo: Sy Bean

Generando is a women-led organization that generates opportunity for women’s economic and personal empowerment as a way to combat interpersonal violence, teenage pregnancy, and lack of opportunities in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. Generando also promotes the involvement of youth (particularly young women living in both urban and rural areas), to become more civically involved—especially around accessing educational opportunities and promoting reproductive rights.

The importance of conducting this research is to highlight how the leadership formation of Generando’s staff has impacted their communities. Part of Generando’s approach to ending violence against women is to provide mentoring through workshops on topics ranging from self-esteem to sexual and reproductive rights. As a result, The Asociacion Sololateca por los derechos de las mujeres indigenas was founded by one of the young women mentored by the Executive Director, Danessa Luna and Coordinator Director, Helen Rojas. This organization works with local schools to raise awareness on teen pregnancy, sexual and reproductive rights, self-esteem, healthy relationships, and gender equality.

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Community radio project becomes voice of Salvadoran town

 

Guazapa, El Salvador  __ As the on-air sign lights up; young Salvadoran amateur radio hosts turn on the switchboard and blast a new rap song.

“We are young, I activate Guazapa and I’m the future,” the chorus states in Spanish. Meanwhile, video jockeys stream the content online and upload an accompanying video on YouTube.

For Oscar Perez it is a dream come true. When the journalist turned activist thought of opening a radio station to better serve the town of Guzapa, located 15 miles north from the capital, he never imagined it would become the main source of information for 125,000 people in just over a decade.

“The decision to develop a community radio station stemmed from a general need to democratize communications. There was a void that civil society could fill,” explains Perez, president and founder of the Foudation for Communication and Development-Comunicandonos, an umbrella organization that promotes and supports the creation of citizen-run media.

Community radio is born

Comunicandonos first project was to support Radio Guazapa, a small separate organization and station by the same name, that aimed to broadcast information of importance to local Guazapans about politics and community programs.

The station grew and partnered with another organization to open and run the Interactive Media Center-Zone One, a resource center that became the town’s one-stop for Internet connectivity but also hosts seminars and trainings. Over the years, the center and its programs have become an information hub for Guazapa.

Perez says that access to information is not only a fundamental aspect of a functioning democracy but a human right.

It wasn’t always the case for the Central American country.

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About the blog:
This blog was created to support the Central America Network and encourage dialogue around relevant research, news and poverty alleviation efforts in the region.
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