El Salvador2020-07-31T19:39:00-04:00

Peacebuilding en Las Américas supports AVP El Salvador, in its fifteenth year, to run workshops in 12 municipalities with over 17 communities, schools, organizations, and churches of differing faiths.The team of Facilitators focus their work with children and teenagers from gang-dominated communities, people currently in prisons, teachers, people who survived the 12-year civil war, and people living with disabilities.

During El Salvador’s 12-year civil war, approximately 80,000 people were murdered, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 disappeared, and thousands were separated from their families. The scars left from unhealed traumas are widespread in Salvadoran society, and the government provides few resources to help communities heal. El Salvador is currently part of the “triangle of death” and the main agents generating violence are organized crime, drug trafficking, and crimes related to domestic violence.

In early 2014, Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) El Salvador began working with people who survived the 12-year civil war, forming a service alliance with Co-Madres. Co-Madres is an organization of more than 400 mothers and relatives of those disappeared or assassinated during the civil war. Co-Madres members are spread throughout the country and have maintained a consistent voice of nonviolent resistance and truth seeking in El Salvador since 1980. Most Co-Madres members are part of a larger population that lacks access to basic public health, education, housing, and other human rights denied to them.

“They have shown a tremendous maturity and capacity to reinvent themselves, to be resilient…AVP contributes to their ability to talk, to rediscover their ability to raise their voices against individual and structural violence and the injustices and problems that occur each day,” said Salomón Medina, AVP El Salvador Coordinator. 

The Apanteos Prison is a mid-security jail for men in Santa Ana, 86 km west of San Salvador, that houses approximately 5,000 men currently incarcerated, though the Prison has a listed capacity of 1,800 men. Apanteos began the “Yo Cambio” (I change) project, which allows opportunities for people living in prison to see a psychologist and learn certain trades. Despite the project, opportunities for rehabilitation are minimal and don’t reach all sectors within the prison. Sector 11, where we have done AVP workshops, holds 500 men who have been isolated from the rest of the population because of their emotional instability.

The prison population in El Salvador increased by 362% between 2000 and 2016 from 7,754 to 35,879 people who are incarcerated. This increase reflects two trends: the mass deportation of people formerly incarcerated in the U.S. back to El Salvador (81,000 people formerly incarcerated were deported to El Salvador between 1998 and 2014) and the adoption of governmental policies (Mano Dura and Super Mano Dura) that allowed increased police power to arrest suspected gang members. The MS13 and Barrio 18 gangs control the penitentiary system in El Salvador.

Workshops with people with disabilities began in 2016 with the aim of creating a core group of facilitators to work with others with similar conditions.   AVP offered participants tools to face widespread discrimination and patterns of abuse and exclusion both within the family and by a system that has marginalized them and considered them expendable. Many persons living with disabilities have complex personal, familial and community problems. They now challenge themselves to see life with greater happiness and optimism despite their difficulties. The idea is to see them and treat them as people with rights and not as objects of pity. The AVP workshops with this interesting group we have coordinated with the Municipal Office of Integral Attention to the Person with Disability (OMADIS) in the municipality of Quezaltepeque, department of La Libertad.

In 2017, Salvadoran Facilitators trained nine community church leaders from different faith backgrounds, who are committed to violence prevention in their communities. The majority of participants (75% of whom are women) work with children and youth. Zacamil, is one of the largest centers of urban concentration in the municipality of Mejicanos of the department of San Salvador. This area is infamous for its gang activity and children, adolescents and youth are at risk to being recruited into criminal organizations this area. AVP El Salvador allied with the committed leadership of the Community of Faith and Adoration Church, so that workshops can positively impact the lives of the emerging generations served in this area.  

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