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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.  

After the murder of three transgender activists and the brutal beating of a transgender man, the Salvadoran legislature passed a hate-crime law in September 2015, placing El Salvador among a handful of Latin American nations with such laws to protect LGBTI citizens. The reforms to the legal code increased the sentences of those convicted of killing someone because of their sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, political affiliation or gender.

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.

"I have never seen a day of peace in my life," Colombian civil society leaders have told me. As President Juan Manuel Santos visits Washington on February 3 and 4, 2016, there's hope they may see such a day.

An increasingly well-known U.S. human rights law barring American military assistance to foreign security forces that commit crimes like murder, kidnapping, rape, and torture has played an important role in encouraging Central and South American countries to crack down on these crimes.

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