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

BRAZIL / 13 JUN 2014

In her most recent post, Rio de Janeiro based journalist and blogger Julia Michaels discusses "Todo dia é segunda-feira," (Everyday is…

HONDURAS / 13 NOV 2014

Honduras is adding 1,000 new officers to its military police, while the president is pushing Congress to enshrine the force…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 8 JAN 2016

Recent legal actions against former military officials in El Salvador and Guatemala illustrate how the shadowy military networks currently operating…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…

THE ORGANIZATION

Backing Investigative Journalism Around the Globe

5 NOV 2021

InSight Crime was a proud supporter of this year's Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which took place November 1 through November 5 and convened nearly 2,000 journalists…