Writer, ex-gang member, and activist Luis Rodriguez recently traveled to El Salvador as part of a delegation to meet with gang members and learn about the truce which has dramatically lowered the murder rate over the past four months. He describes the opportunity this truce provides in an article titled Gang Peace in El Salvador: The Opportunity We Can't Afford To Miss:
This time I found a more open and caring attitude from everyone we met in El Salvador, including government officials in the ministries of health, education, and public safety as well as among the heads of the penal system. The gang leaders were sincere and quite clear about their commitment to the peace. A meeting of the minds and hearts of the Salvadoran people would help make this process sustainable and significant, even beyond its borders.
Now where do we go from here?
There is a need for short and long-range actions and policies. Gang leaders in El Salvador have asked for humane prison conditions, medical care, jobs and training and rehabilitation programs. There is a need for businesses to provide jobs and a livable income in one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere. The country needs an expansion of educational opportunities as well as vocational and other training. What about full mental health and drug treatment programs? There is deep trauma to address, as well as orphans and broken families. How about the arts that in my experience has been instrumental in expanding the imaginations of the most troubled communities and allowing creativity to accompany any healing process?Read more here.