Several weeks after the El Salvador government announced it would not seek to restart talks of a truce between local gangs, a special security council released a 124-point action plan detailing how the government can act to slow the spread of violence in the country.
The plan, which has not yet been released in full, would cost somewhere between $1.8 million and $2.1 billion and includes provisions to reduce youth unemployment, help victims of crimes, improve access to recreation and public spaces, and create reintegration programs for former prisoners. In all, nearly $1.5 billion would go towards crime prevention efforts, the government said.
It also calls for $38 million in improvements in the penal system. Salvadoran prisons are chronically overcrowded, reaching a 325 percent occupancy level, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies.
The special council, touted as an “inter-institutional effort,” is composed of members of the government and has some participation of civil society groups and multilaterals.
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The full budget for the plan, which is close to eight percent of the current annual GDP, would supposedly be raised from private and international sources, in addition to government funding. The question is where the money would come from. One of the plan’s authors said that if financing could not be found, the special council would end up with “good intentions, but no results,” reported La Prensa Grafica.
Historically, El Salvador has some of the lowest spending in social and education programs in the region. In 2011, government public investment represented 22 percent of GDP, while the Latin American average was 28 percent of its GDP.
The action plan could be a response to the government’s recent announcement to end negotiations to broker a truce between the country’s two main gangs, the MS-13 and Barrio 18, and slow a surge in violence. The special council specifically recommended against allowing what one multilateral delegate called “criminal elements” a seat at the table.
While unpopular among Salvadorans, the truce received credit for briefly lowering murder rates by nearly half. Since it broke down, homicides have gone up considerably making El Salvador one of the most violent countries in the world that is not at war.