How El Salvador Became The World’s Most Violent Peacetime Country

2937 words - 12 pages

Political violence is a topic that is not unheard of in the ears of our generation, being quite the common factor in a never ending struggle for power-thirsty individuals and groups throughout history. Empires, spanning countless miles of land, did not come to considerable power without violence and politics playing their roles. Regardless of the size, El Salvador was no exception. Political violence has transformed this country, not only economically and culturally, but emotionally as well. Peaceful Salvadorans, including their children, were taking up arms, becoming part of guerrilla communist groups or death squads. But why would Salvadorans, who have no history of violence, join a death squad or become a member of an anti-government communist guerrilla group? In this paper, I will discuss the economic, social, and environmental problems of the country, death squads/terrorism, the reason for their existence in El Salvador, children joining death squads, the United States involvement, and El Salvador’s transitional process. I believe each one of these points have played a significant part in the history of El Salvador today. To fully understand this thesis question, some background on El Salvador is needed.

El Salvador is the most densely populated country in Central America, as well as being the smallest, having an area of 21,040 km. A long history of natural disasters, such as earthquakes and volcano eruptions, as well as social struggles, has morphed the country drastically. Three-fourths of the population is now settled in the area west of Lake Ilopango and south of Santa Ana, having a very rugged topography comprised of volcanoes. This area also faces high rates of subduction zone and upper-crustal earthquakes, as well as landslides. An event, such as the 1986 earthquake in San Salvador, caused 1500 deaths and damage equal to 31% of GDP that year.
The wealth of the country is based on an agricultural economy of cotton, sugar cane, and coffee. Due to the country’s civil wars, many of the fields disappeared to meet the needs of armed forces. Low prices, armed conflict, and urban expansion have caused many of the coffee plantations to convert over for other purposes as well. The reduction of agricultural production has dramatically reduced employment opportunities in the rural areas and severely affected the poorest levels of society. There is also a serious unemployment problem, particularly in urban areas, reaching 31.5% in 1998. This has led to Salvadorans immigrating to the United States. According to the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, twenty thousand immigrant visas are approved every year and ten thousand are denied. The most common forms of immigration are poverty, social insecurity, and profit from illegal drug trafficking. This has caused a drastic shift in the typical makeup of families. Fathers, and sometimes mothers, immigrate in search of a better future hoping that, once settled, they will make enough money to bring...

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