El Salvador’s crime prevention policies—from Mano Dura to El Salvador Seguro
Carballo, Carlos A.
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This thesis examines Salvadoran policies that addressed the rise in violent crime by gangs. These gangs have posed the biggest security risk to El Salvador since the end of the civil war in 1992. The two biggest gangs are the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and 18th Street, both originating in Los Angeles, CA, and which have proliferated throughout the Americas since the 1990s. Salvadoran administrations have tried to solve the issue in different manners. The Nationalist Republican Alliance administration (1997–2009) created the Mano Dura (Iron Hand) policies in 2003 and Super Mano Dura in 2004 in an attempt to decrease violent crime through repressive police tactics and incarcerations. The result was higher homicide rates. The National Farabundo Martí Liberation administrations (2009– present) negotiated a Gang Truce between MS-13 and 18th Street to move past Mano Dura, leading to a modest decrease in homicides in 2012 and 2013. The results, however, were mixed in the levels of violent crime other than homicides. The truce was broken and replaced by a comprehensive social outreach strategy called Plan El Salvador Seguro. The argument is that after Plan El Salvador Seguro is implemented, the results should reverse the trend of rising violent crime, but it is going to take time—and money.
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