University of Florida Study Report: “The new face of gangs”

San Salvador, Marzo 16 de 2017 La Embajadora de los Estados Unidos, Jean Manes, asistió esta mañana a la presentación de un nuevo estudio realizado por la Universidad de Florida, denominado ''La nueva cara de las pandillas juveniles en El Salvador''. (Fotografías Juan Quintero/ Embajada de los Estad

“The New Face of Gangs” Presentation
Ambassador Jean Manes
Thursday, March 16, 2017, 9:30 A.M., Barceló Hotel

Remarks by Ambassador Jean Manes at the presentation of the University of Florida Study Report: “The new face of gangs”

March 16, 2017

* This is a courtesy translation. Only the original Spanish version should be considered authoritative.

It is a great honor to be here during this important presentation about the results of a study about gangs in El Salvador from this prestigious university from my state of birth, Florida.

This study is significant for many reasons, but above all is the fact that it can help us address the root reasons why young people join gangs. It also offers light on what makes them decide to leave the gang. With this knowledge, decision makers will have better tools to improve the security situation in El Salvador.

The lack of security is the lack of a basic human right. It is not possible for the citizens of a country to enjoy all human rights that national and international laws guarantee, if the protection of their personal integrity and their life are not guaranteed.

We all know that the phenomenon of gang violence is one of the biggest challenges facing El Salvador. You, who are mayors of Salvadoran municipalities, know more than anyone else the value of effectively confronting the issue of gangs. And this cannot be done only through repression. However, we can work together to give other opportunities to young people and former gang members.

We have constantly insisted, and our programs in the country reflect this, in the element of prevention as an essential key to work to improve security in El Salvador. But if we want to reduce the extent of gang activity in El Salvador, we need to understand why so many young Salvadorans join this type of criminal life. In this sense, the study of the International University of Florida is focused and becomes such an important piece of information in the present moment of El Salvador.

The team that conducted the study interviewed more than a thousand gang members in prisons, to determine their origins, their motivations, and what options exist for these young men and women to withdraw from gangs. The study helps us understand that the path to the gang is forged from childhood. The role of violent households and how domestic violence influences the recruitment of the gang is analyzed. In addition, this study tries to explain the process, according to the gang members themselves, in order to get out of criminal life and return to society.

Very interesting answers have been obtained.

Finally, the existence of Salvadoran companies and organizations, such as the League company, that are developing these alternatives is examined.

With the study of the Florida International University, we have new information that can help us in our effort against gangs, and with the El Salvador Seguro Plan, the government initiative in which their municipalities participate, we have a mechanism to implement the social and preventive projects we need to change the situation of these young people.

With more participation from the state and civil society, these alternatives can grow and contribute to changing so many lives. The information in this study is only a beginning, but it allows us to conclude that we have to start working with the most vulnerable communities, with the hope of a better future for the young people of El Salvador.

With more information, more understanding of the phenomenon and more support, we believe it is possible to reverse the negative step of so many young Salvadorans and improve their hopes in the future.

Thank you.