Hundreds of families have fled their government-subsidized homes because of gang violence in the last six years according to official reports, one indication of how the government is losing control of neighborhoods in El Salvador.
According to El Diario de Hoy, from 2010 to 2015, El Salvador’s low-income housing agencies reported that 751 families left their government-subsidized homes because of gang threats, extortion, and high homicide rates. In some cases, gangs use the abandoned houses as operations centers, while in others, gangs loot the homes for profit.
These forced evictions were most common in twenty of El Salvador’s 262 municipalities; one neighborhood in the municipality of Colon has seen 184 families flee from 2010 to 2015.
Families forced out of their government-subsidized homes can submit a report to authorities in order to apply for new housing. However, this is an onerous process, and in many cases, the alternatives offered by the government are located in other neighborhoods wracked by crime, El Diario de Hoy reported.
Graphic by El Diario de Hoy shows where displaced families are assigned new public housing
InSight Crime Analysis
The government’s official registry of those displaced from public housing pale in comparison to other estimates of the number of displaced in El Salvador. According to recent statistics, 288,900 Salvadorans are internally displaced, largely due to high levels of violence — in 2015, El Salvador had the highest murder rate in the world, at 104.2 per 100,000 inhabitants.
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When families are forced to leave their homes, the consequences are far-reaching. They not only become homeless, but also lose what is often their primary investment, as well as access to schools, churches, health clinics, and community support. Nor is the displacement limited to El Salvador’s biggest urban areas.
Ongoing displacement is one indication of how little control state forces have over Salvadoran territory. In one case documented by El Diario de Hoy in their report, in the municipality of Soyapango, a gang gave a family twenty-four hours to leave their home. The family did not even try to report the case to authorities because they feared reprisals. This kind of story is all too common across El Salvador, with the government unable to intervene.