The headline in an Associated Press article today was El Salvador families abandon homes following gang threats. The story stated:
More than a dozen families have abandoned their homes in two rural communities following threats from gang members, police in El Salvador said Wednesday....
Residents loading their few possessions into trucks on Tuesday declined to give their names out of fear. They said gang members had gone house to house threatening families.
The move comes after four members of one family were killed on April 27 in a turf battle. Some families said that even with police present they no longer felt safe.The story is tragic, but it is incredibly common now in El Salvador. A week ago I was in El Salvador when members of a family I know well called on the phone to say that gang members had burst into their house in the middle of the night, beat up women in the house and threatened the family. Now that family has fled to spend their nights in another community.
Today numbers were released surrounding the magnitude of this problem The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center published its report titled Global Overview 2015: people internally displaced by conflict and violence. According to the report and based on a survey by the UCA, 288,900 Salvadorans were displaced by violence during 2014. That is an extraordinary number representing almost 1 out of every 20 Salvadorans.
It is also a problem which El Salvador's government barely acknowledges. According to the IDMC Global Overview report at page 19:
El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have only recently begun to acknowledge displacement and set responses in motion, and as such the pursuit of durable solutions is still virtually non-existent.One organization working to document and protect the rights of these internally displaced persons is Foundation Cristosal. Cristosal's Human Rights program, A Preferential Option for Victims, focuses on those families victimized by the organized violence in the country which makes them flee their homes.
The problem has also been well reported by the online periodical El Faro, including this 2012 article with stories of families and pictures of their abandoned houses, covered with gang tags.