The reduction in gang violence in El Salvador from the gang truce is the best story from El Salvador this year, but this reduction in killings will be short-lived if there is not increased opportunity, hope and social inclusion. Hannah Stone in The Christian Science Monitor described some steps the government is taking to increase jobs for former job members:
Last week, El Salvador’s government announced a new scheme that it says will give tens of thousands of former gang members the opportunity to rejoin the labor market after they leave prison (link in Spanish). Vice Security Minister Douglas Moreno said that participants would receive job training and opportunities with companies participating in the project. The so-called “labor parks” would also be for "at risk" youth, who live in areas with high gang presence. The pilot scheme, the minister said, would have some 500 participants, but would eventually benefit between 50,000 and 70,000 people across the country.
When announcing the initiative, the minister was flanked by representatives of Rio Grande, a preserved food company, and League Central America, a textiles producer. Both organizations have already launched schemes to employ former gang members, which have been running for some three years (link in Spanish). League Central America has 30 ex-gang members on its staff, making up 15 percent of its employees, while Rio Grande has 250, with another 100 currently taking part in rehabilitation workshops. Rodrigo Bolaños of the League urged other companies to take part, saying that "the gang members have shown us that they are productive."This sounds good, and I hope it can be built upon, but it will be a struggle in a country with high unemployment and little economic growth.