HomeNewsBriefEl Salvador Proposes Gang Rehabilitation Law
BRIEF

El Salvador Proposes Gang Rehabilitation Law

BARRIO 18 / 29 OCT 2015 BY MICHAEL LOHMULLER EN

Officials in El Salvador have formally proposed a gang rehabilitation law, but the country's current security conditions -- along with the mixed results of similar initiatives elsewhere in the region -- suggest this legislation is unlikely to provide a viable solution to rising gang violence. 

On October 26, El Salvador's Security and Justice Minister Benito Lara presented a bill called the "Gang Reinsertion Law" to Congress, reported La Prensa Grafica.

For gang members who comply with the law (and have not committed serious offenses, such as homicide or crimes punishable by 10 or more years in prison), authorities would suspend judicial proceedings against them on illicit association and terrorism charges, which carry a potential prison term of eight to 15 years.

Secretary of Presidential Communications Eugenio Chicas said the initiative "is in no way an amnesty" for gang members, and that those who have committed serious crimes will be held accountable.

The proposal also offers programs and benefits to former gang members and at-risk youth, such as education and job training.

According to Defense Minister David Munguia Payes, El Salvador has 60,000 gang members, with around 10 percent of the country's population linked to gang structures in some way, reported EFE.

InSight Crime Analysis

There are several major obstacles that would likely prevent the proposed gang rehabilitation law from succeeding in El Salvador. 

First, there is little reason to believe El Salvador's harsh anti-gang policies -- including the reclassification of the Barrio 18 and MS13 as terrorist organizations -- have pressured gangs members to the point they are looking for an exit strategy. In Panama, officials are currently discussing targeting gang structures that refuse to participate in a government program aimed at rehabilitating gang members. Such a strong-armed approach in El Salvador, however, is unlikely to accelerate gang "demobilization," considering years of anti-gang legislation has failed to control the spread of gang activity and violence. 

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

The second issue is the financial feasibility of the program. If large numbers of gang members begin turning themselves in, implementing the rehabilitation law would be costly. Salvadoran officials assert funding for the program falls within the new security initiative, "Secure El Salvador." Launched in July, Secure El Salvador will cost an estimated $2.1 billion over the next five years, and there are serious questions about whether or not the government will be able to finance the initiative in its entirety. 

These are not quaint concerns; logistical problems have previously derailed gang rehabilitation efforts in the region. A 2012 government-funded gang truce in Belize, which provided work opportunities for some 200 gang members, collapsed after funds dried up. The subsequent spike in violence demonstrates the risks an underfunded reinsertion program poses.

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

BARRIO 18 / 27 DEC 2016

The same day they buried the seventh police officer killed by gang members in November, the government announced a new…

COSTA RICA / 5 JAN 2016

Homicides reached historic levels during the past year in Costa Rica, forcing authorities to look for new ways to counteract…

BRAZIL / 3 JAN 2019

Welcome to InSight Crime’s Criminal GameChangers 2018, where we highlight the most important trends in organized crime in the Americas…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…