by Katherine Platt
If we define “dangerous” based solely on homicide rates, El Salvador is the most dangerous country in the world. The current homicide rate in El Salvador is 71 per 100,000 inhabitants a year, the highest in the world. To put things into perspective, Mexico (currently experiencing a war on drugs) has a murder rate of 15 per 100,000.
I had the fortune of briefly visiting San Salvador in 2007. I never felt in danger; on the contrary, the people of El Salvador were very kind to me. I didn’t know a single person in this country, but the random Salvadorans I met offered me rides from point A to point B. They took me sightseeing. We went shopping. We ate pupusas in one of the many pupuserias in town. I certainly did not feel El Salvador was one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
But we cannot cover the sun with our thumbs. We have to acknowledge that post-Civil War violence is a reality in El Salvador. The two groups accountable for most of the violence today are the Mexican drug cartels and the maras (youth gangs).
Central America is a bridge to South American drugs en route to the United States. Drugs shipped out of South America (mainly Colombia) via boats and planes must land somewhere south of the U.S.-Mexico border. Since the Central American nations, most notably Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, have weak and corrupt governments, the Mexican cartels have infiltrated into Central America to receive drug shipments coming from Colombia.
The maras is the other group responsible for the high homicide rate in El Salvador. The maras terrorize the nation by demanding La Renta (extortion fees) from small businesses and bus drivers. The extortion fees are usually $5/day for larger businesses and $2–$3 for smaller businesses. If the victims do not pay la Renta, they will most likely be murdered by the gang members. Furthermore, the maras are constantly warring with one another since they are fighting for each other’s territory. Often, innocent people fall victims of the shootings.
It is my experience that the average Salvadoran is a friendly and cordial human being. Sadly, the drug cartels and the youth gangs are spilling the blood and tainting the image of this beautiful country.
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of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.