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El Salvador: a country ruled by gangs

El Salvador might be the deadliest place in the world that isn’t a war zone. The rival gangs of MS-13 and La 18 control every part of life. Multiple murders are a daily occurrence, gangs extort 70% of businesses, and public killings are commonplace. An estimated 500,000 Salvadorians are involved in gangs - 8 percent of the population. This brutal gang culture evolved after the 12-year long civil war in the 1980s, and is now unmatched for its scale of violence. MS-13’s motto is ‘kill, rape, control’. It is a country ruled by fear - where anybody can be an informer, nobody is safe, any street can become a crime scene, anybody can be disappeared.The migrant caravans held at the US border at Tijuana, Mexico, are often full of people fleeing gang violence in El Salvador. With a total breakdown of trust - in society at large, and a people living out each day in absolute fear; it is not difficult to see why so many see emigration as the only way out. There is hope that Nayib Bukele, El Salvador’s new president, might be the one to finally tackle these issues. Although the murder rate is falling, disappearances are up, and in July the government announced it is no longer registering homicides resulting from confrontations between security forces and suspected gang members. For now, at least, fear, violence and intimidation remain an everyday part of life here.

For more on my work from El Salvador please copy/paste this link for full story here @guardian https://bit.ly/3h6ZU6E

Music: “Sumiruna” composed and played by Othon @OthonPanMuzik

©Tariq Zaidi Photography. All Rights Reserved.