HomeNewsBriefEl Salvador Clenches 'Iron First' at Children
BRIEF

El Salvador Clenches 'Iron First' at Children

BARRIO 18 / 8 APR 2016 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

Authorities in El Salvador are proposing to toughen legislation against minors in order to combat the growth of gangs, a sign officials are ready to use the "iron fist" security approach against juveniles.

On April 7, Attorney General Douglas Arquímedes Meléndez Ruiz presented a reform to the country's Juvenile Penal Law that would enable prosecutors to order arrest warrants for minors, reported La Prensa Grafica. Authorities say this measure is intended to limit the effects of gangs who recruit children to commit crimes on their behalf. Currently, only a juvenile judge can order a minor's arrest.  

Meanwhile, earlier this week Representative Guillermo Gallegos of the Great Alliance for National Unity (Gran Alianza por la Unidad Nacional - GANA) said El Salvador does not need to modify its laws or withdraw from international treaties in order to try youth delinquents as adults, reported EFE.   

"I think that with the declaration by the [Supreme Court] which says that gang members are terrorists, there is the opportunity to process minors as adults," Gallegos said, referring to a decision last year by El Salvador's high court to classify gangs as terrorist groups

The comments were prompted by previous discussion to lower the legal age of adulthood in order to prosecute suspects as adults at a younger age. Patricia Valdivieso of the conservative National Republican Alliance (Alianza Republicana Nacionalista - ARENA) suggested lowering the age of adulthood from 18 to 14, while Gallegos proposed setting it even lower at 12. 

InSight Crime Analysis

It's important to keep in mind the context in which these comments are being made. Homicide rates in El Salvador are reaching dizzying heights, and gangs are believed to be driving much of the violence. These gangs frequently recruit minors to carry out the most dangerous tasks and riskiest crimes, since youths face less severe punishment and are generally considered to be an expendable source of cheap labor. 

SEE ALSO:  El Salvador News and Profiles

But if the recent measures proposed by Salvadoran authorities are intended to either protect minors or reduce street crime, their efforts are misguided. Lowering the age at which youths can be prosecuted as adults only incentivizes gangs to recruit from an even younger age pool. They have already shown a willingness to do so, with reports of gangs in Honduras enlisting members as young as six

Likewise, introducing minors to the criminal justice system at a younger age only encourages greater delinquency. Hardline security policies known as "Mano Dura," or Iron Fist, led to the rounding up of large numbers of gang members, turning prisons into veritable centers for organized crime. If youths don't enter the prison system as hardened criminals, they are certainly more likely to leave as one.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 14 OCT 2022

ELN fighting has reduced in most of Colombia following peace talk commitments, but in Arauca, the group remains active.

BELIZE / 17 SEP 2021

Despite improving homicide statistics, Belize continues to regularly declare states of emergency due to crime rates. But do these actually…

CYBERCRIME / 20 OCT 2021

A month after El Salvador’s government introduced Bitcoin as a national currency, an illegal corner of the new economy has…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…