El Salvador Proposes Curfew, Militarized Schools

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El Salvador’s government has proposed implementing a curfew on young people and placing schools under heavy guard, following a record year for murders.

Minister of Justice and Public Security David Munguia Payes said the proposed curfew would keep people below the age of 18 off the streets between 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m, according to La Prensa Grafica.

Meanwhile, President Mauricio Funes has said he will begin sending the military and police to guard schools in areas of suspected gang activity.

InSight Crime Analysis

The announcements comes after a bloody year in El Salvador in which a record 4,308 people were murdered, including 139 students.

The proposals appear to be part of Funes’ escalation of the war against street gangs. As InSight Crime has reported, Funes is mimicking the “Mano Dura” or “Iron Fist” strategy of his predecessors, placing ex-military officials in top security posts, some of whom are intimating that they may begin mass incarcerations of suspected gang members.

These policies have more than a few critics. El Salvador’s focus on incarcerating suspected gang members has placed more inmates in badly overcrowded prisons. InSight Crime has noted that these overcrowded prisons may have worsened crime and violence in the country. And the government’s obsession with gangs comes at the expense of disrupting other types of criminals, like international drug traffickers.

Additionally, imposing a curfew may push youth towards gangs rather than away from them, as these groups ramp up their rhetoric against the policy.

There are practical concerns as well. Police patrols to enforce the curfew may divert resources from normal duties.

Funes’ cabinet, however, does not seem deterred. La Prensa Grafica reports that after receiving criticism of his curfew plan from a human rights advocate, Payes responded, “Human rights cannot become an obstacle to fighting crime.”

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