El Salvador: From Bloody Civil War to Devastating Criminal Violence

Diego Solis
Field Researcher, Stratfor
Oct 9, 2016 | 13:01 GMT
El Salvador: From Bloody Civil War to Devastating Criminal Violence
MS-13 members detained in Ciudad Barrios, San Miguel in 2013. El Salvador's gangs are working to expand their operations into international drug trafficking.
(Marvin RECINOS/AFP/Getty Images)

In 2015, El Salvador, with an alarming 104 homicides committed per 100,000 residents, was named the world's most violent country. It is a place with a long history of violence -- from the Spanish incursion in the 16th century fiercely resisted by Pipil warriors to the military government's massacre of thousands of rural indigenous citizens in 1932. And then there was the civil war that raged between 1979 and 1992, killing an estimated 75,000 people in a country of just a few million. Today, El Salvador's legacy of violence is most evident in its gang culture, most notably perpetrated by Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, and the 18th Street Gang, or Calle 18. Both groups emerged from a migratory channel opened between the United States and El Salvador. Beginning in the 1980s, Washington gave thousands of El Salvadorans, largely from poor, rural areas, temporary protective status in the United States. But...

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