Violence Plagues El Salvador

The reality of life in postwar El Salvador is that nearly 20 years later violence continues to plague much of the country, Bishop Jose Elias Rauda Gutierrez of San Vicente acknowledged during an August visit to Washington. Bishop Rauda said that violence, poverty, unemployment, hunger and precarious living conditions continue to make life difficult for Salvadorans nearly 20 years after the 1992 end of the 12-year civil war. A Salvadoran government report released in early August tallied 91 murders in the previous five weeks in the Massachusetts-size country that has a population of 5.7 million, about the same as the state of Maryland. In just one department, Sonsonate, 32 murders occurred in the period covered by the report; a department is the political equivalent of a U.S. state. The daily problems of the Salvadoran people include dealing with poverty, unemployment and gang-related violence, ranging from extortion to murder, he said, noting that in some ways the violence is a vestige of the war, because so many weapons remained throughout the country. He said the country's fragile economy leaves plenty of room for drug gangs to recruit unemployed and undereducated youths. A statement of the Salvadoran bishops' conference released in early August gave the government credit for some efforts to "combat this scourge" of violence but said the crime crackdown "is not enough to give the people the social peace and security necessary."

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