The ongoing violent situation in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala regions of Central America has been in the news for quite some time. Reports of natives fleeing to seek asylum in the U.S. have instilled tension.
Asylum is a precise word for “seeking refuge or protection.” In practice, this term suggests an act of protection from political, social, or domestic violence.
Gangs of paramilitary groups have created havoc in the Northern Triangle area by executing inhumane acts against innocent civilians. These groups are used to suppress political oppositions and in turn, pose a threat to common people. Young men are the primary target who get threatened to join the gruesome activities. In contrast, women are used as sex slaves or are forced into joining gangs.
Moreover, children also suffer the cost of violence. A significant number are malnourished, abused, abandoned, or murdered. A report put forward on the issue, concluded that an estimated 15,000 Guatemalan children become victims of sexual abuse.
The gangs continue to demand extortions from hard earning natives and threaten to kill them if they refuse.
Statistics of deaths were studied, during which variable results were obtained. In the study, the number of killings per year in the Northern Triangle was analyzed.
As per the stats, the homicide rate in El Salvador was 103 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2015, which eventually lowered down to 60 per 100,000 in 2017. The homicide rate in Honduras did not lag behind and as high as 86.6 killings per 100,000 inhabitants were reported in 2011, lowering down to 46.5 in 2016. On the other aspect, Guatemala also struggled with rising homicide rates. Around 48 killings per 10,000 inhabitants were recorded in 2008, which dropped to 30 by 2015.
Analyzing the overall number of deaths portrays a decreasing number of fatalities in consecutive years. But the killings recorded, did not consider the severe levels of violence in some areas.
There seem to be several factors that could affect an accurate evaluation of homicide rates in the northern triangle. Factors including cases that are missed or those in which people disappear and hence, there may be no way to conclude if they are alive or dead.
Northern triangle governments have exploited the political power and used the gang problem, for their own benefit. The government has been successful in luring the common people by smoothly disguising the underlying political agendas, with inefficient military suppression-repression policies. Such a policy is locally known as Mano Dura (tough hand heavy hand).
As stated by a report, further reforms were made in the repression policies to ease sentences and assist the prosecution. The “weed and seed” strategy of the Violent crime and law enforcement act 1994 in the US, tolled up fundings for federal law enforcement agents to $2.6 billion to create strong penalties for gang crimes (US Department of Justice 1994).
The failure of these reforms is evident by the continued worsening of gang menace in the countries. Therefore it becomes necessary for the government to set higher effective goals to deter the rising violence.
Miserable Living Conditions & Migration
The civil war in Central America displaced about 2 million people in the 1970s-1980s, which led to thousands of people migrating to flee the economic crisis. Recent migrations are being made not only by males wanting to pursue their American dream, but also by families, newborns, children, and pregnant women.
Such mass numbers of families put forward the idea of increasing poverty and violence in their native land.
Parents living in “red zones” or communities are dominated mainly by gangs, have to work harder to prevent their children from coming in contact with the gang members. The unfortunate ones get targeted, boys being forcefully pushed to join gangs and girls getting sexually abused.
All these factors contribute to families being convinced to leave their homeland who then seek refuge in the US, for a peaceful life that they indiscriminately deserve.
To conclude, prejudice against humanity has detrimental effects. Every human, whether a man, woman or child, deserves proper living conditions and violence-free life.
People of Central America are not to be forgotten when it comes to deciding peace strategies on a higher political platform.