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The solutions to El Salvador’s security problems are neither easy, nor immediate. It will be a long and difficult road for El Salvador to address the issues at the core of the violence and insecurity ravaging the country. But there are things that can be done to improve conditions in the short term and set the country on a path to see peace and justice. U.S. policies and assistance can be part of the problem or part of the solution.  

El Salvador’s mounting security crisis has been met by a heavy-handed government response, which centers on sending the military and police into the streets to outgun the gangs and filling the country’s jails with even the lowest-ranking of alleged gang members. Beyond escalating violence and presenting extremely serious human rights concerns, this plan is simply not working. But, as 2016 unfolds, the government has a chance to set a new course and roll out an existing strategy to curb the violence.

The violence gripping El Salvador affects women in a different way than men. Within the current security crisis, gang and security force violence has exacerbated a broader, long-standing acceptance of violence against women. More than half of all Salvadoran women say they have suffered some form of violence in their lives. Over a quarter of these women were victims of sexual or physical violence.

The horrific violence gripping El Salvador has contributed to a humanitarian crisis that has forced hundreds of thousands of citizens to flee their homes. But the Salvadoran government has not fully recognized the problem of internal displacement and has failed to provide solutions.

In an attempt to understand the different sources and dynamics of violence, the Center for International Policy and the Latin America Working Group Education Fund traveled to El Salvador late last year. We interviewed journalists, analysts, government officials, judges, police officers, citizens, activists, humanitarian workers, diplomats, and academics. Our report, coming in a series of posts over the next week will lay out El Salvador’s current security situation and provide recommendations for U.S. policy.

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