Maria Hoisington,a student of Latin American Studies and Human Rights at the University of Washington, published an article in Upside Down World looking at one community's use of soccer leagues to help keep youth out of gangs:
Not only have these policies been unsuccessful in gang abatement, police repression and targeting of youth has, in effect, criminalized the act of being young. In the past five years, there have been constant outcries from non-governmental organizations, human rights groups, opposition party members, and civil society denouncing repression and calling for alternative solutions. I spent April and May of 2009 in El Salvador researching one of these alternatives; a violence prevention program implemented in 2006 by the local government in San Martín, a municipality located outside the capital city, San Salvador. San Martín has historically been one of the most violent municipalities in the country, but has enjoyed substantial success in lowering its crime statistics and providing opportunity for youth during the past three years. The manner in which the local government in San Martín discusses and treats youth issues is drastically different from that of the national government, and directly affects how local youth view their own opportunities and participation in society. A key aspect of the program, known as Plan ‘San Martín Seguro’, or ‘A Safe San Martín’, is a soccer league for youth ages six to eighteen. My investigation focused on the experience of young men who participate in the league. Our discussions centered around the marginalization of communities due to gang presence, the soccer league as a tool for violence prevention, and their experiences of police repression.(more)
No single approach to fighting gang violence in El Salvador will be sufficient. Prevention efforts like these soccer leagues help combat gang recruitment. Other efforts are needed to strengthen Salvadoran families, to improve the effectiveness of the police and the courts, and to provide opportunities for employment for young adults. There will be no quick fixes.