AQ’s Jason Marczak Discusses Youth Violence Prevention in Central America


December 13, 2012


Jason Marczak, Senior Editor of Americas Quarterly and Director of Policy at Americas Society/Council of the Americas, discusses in an article for the Miami Herald the innovative efforts by El Salvador's private-sector to reduce violence and re-insert former gang members into society.

Central America: A job instead of a gun

By Jason Marczak

Nine months after a gang truce more than halved the daily homicide rate in El Salvador, a new agreement between the maras and the facilitators of the peace process promises to pave the way for a long-term solution to the criminal violence that has gripped the country since the end of the civil war. The Dec. 4 pact will create 10 nationwide peace zones in which gangs will commit to end all homicides, extortions, thefts, and kidnapping.

The plan is intended to provide a first step in which gang members (mareros) will begin to reinsert themselves into society.

But where do they go? Former gang members — often tattooed and with little or no formal education or work experience — are at an inherent disadvantage in competing for jobs. In a country with high youth unemployment and underemployment, businesses are understandably either reluctant to take their chances in hiring former gang members or do not have the right employment opportunities.

A new Americas Society policy brief, Security in Central America’s Northern Triangle: Violence Reduction and the Role of the Private Sector in El Salvador, finds that despite these challenges some courageous businesses are adopting policies to integrate former gang leaders into the labor market, in ways that both improve productivity and provide the best hope for peace and stability in El Salvador.

Read the rest of the article here.

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