The United States has announced $91.2 million in funding for security programs in El Salvador that are not aligned with the country’s gang truce, raising the question of whether the US is actively seeking to undermine the process.
The money will be divided between strengthening the judicial system, improving educational opportunities inside and outside schools, community crime prevention and a program called SolucionES, which seeks to prevent young people joining gangs, reported news agency EFE. SolucionES will receive an additional $20 million from private foundations.
The money is part of the bilateral Association for Growth agreement the US signed with El Salvador in 2011, which aims to “overcome the obstacles slowing economic growth” in the country, with insecurity considered a major one of those hurdles.
InSight Crime Analysis
While funding for security programs in El Salvador, historically one of the world’s most dangerous countries, is clearly welcome, the fact that the money will remain separate from the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 gang truce raises concerns. It is hard to envisage how security programs — particularly those seeking to prevent crime and deter young people from joining gangs — can truly be effective if they do not work alongside the truce, an initiative which has defined El Salvador’s security landscape since it came into effect in March 2012 and which has brought about a massive drop in murders.
The absence of US financial support for gang truce-linked initiatives could raise further questions about the degree to which the US supports the process. Since gang leaders negotiated their agreement, the US has designated MS-13 a transnational criminal organization (and more recently added six Mara leaders to an economic sanctions list), issued a travel warning against El Salvador, and said no to government officials who have travelled to Washington DC to request funds for the the process. While the US has not explicitly criticized the truce, such actions hardly amount to an endorsement.