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After the murder of three transgender activists and the brutal beating of a transgender man, the Salvadoran legislature passed a hate-crime law in September 2015, placing El Salvador among a handful of Latin American nations with such laws to protect LGBTI citizens. The reforms to the legal code increased the sentences of those convicted of killing someone because of their sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, political affiliation or gender.

The violence gripping El Salvador affects women in a different way than men. Within the current security crisis, gang and security force violence has exacerbated a broader, long-standing acceptance of violence against women. More than half of all Salvadoran women say they have suffered some form of violence in their lives. Over a quarter of these women were victims of sexual or physical violence.

The horrific violence gripping El Salvador has contributed to a humanitarian crisis that has forced hundreds of thousands of citizens to flee their homes. But the Salvadoran government has not fully recognized the problem of internal displacement and has failed to provide solutions.

In El Salvador, over 80 percent of murders were carried out with guns in 2015. Loose enforcement of existing Salvadoran laws, limited U.S. gun controls, military corruption and lax oversight of large caches of civil war-era arms have made it relatively easy for criminals to access such firepower.

The government’s use of force has invited violent pushback from the gangs, and there have been severe consequences for citizens living in the crossfire. All sides are now engaged in an escalating cycle of action and reaction. For security forces, it seems the line between those living in gang-controlled neighborhoods and those in a gang has become blurred, casting such a wide net in their operations that anyone could be targeted, but particularly young boys.

As the war continues to rage, the fight against the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 gangs has often taken center stage. However, the security landscape in El Salvador is more complex than a battle between gangs and security forces. 

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Recent Blog

Sep 21, 2017
This inforgraphic shows the stark contrast between the Arms Sales nofitications that were approved...
Jun 13, 2017
As Congress prepares for a vote today on a proposed sale of U.S. precision-guided munitions to...
Mar 10, 2017
The State Department requested Congress to approve over $662 million worth of commercial firearms...
Mar 5, 2017
This blog post first appeared on Lobelog under the title Commerce Department Boosts Arms Sales...
Nov 1, 2016
This article was originally published on the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA)...