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The government’s use of force has invited violent pushback from the gangs, and there have been severe consequences for citizens living in the crossfire. All sides are now engaged in an escalating cycle of action and reaction. For security forces, it seems the line between those living in gang-controlled neighborhoods and those in a gang has become blurred, casting such a wide net in their operations that anyone could be targeted, but particularly young boys.

As the war continues to rage, the fight against the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 gangs has often taken center stage. However, the security landscape in El Salvador is more complex than a battle between gangs and security forces. 

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.

Security Assistance Monitor recently acquired the Department of Defense’s 2015 fourth quarter report on the Coalition Support Fund program through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. 

Last month the United States approved a $1.29 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia. This deal is the latest in a string of major arms sales agreements totaling $20.8 billion since the Gulf country began fighting in Yemen against the Houthi rebels in March 2015. In addition, from 2009-14 the United States delivered over $13 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, making it the largest recipient of U.S. arms in the world. Human rights groups have denounced the most recent sale, citing the recklessness of the Saudi-led air attacks that have left thousands of civilians dead.

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