SAN SALVADOR.— The population here is beginning to perceive a more secure environment in the country, following the implementation of measures meant to curb violence, a problem which had reached alarming levels over the last several months.
Police authorities report that in the month of April, 352 homicides took place in the country, representing a 42% decrease as compared to the previous month, 47% less than February, and 52% less than January.
Lázaro Alveranga, who lives in Ciudad Delgado, San Salvador department, says there is more tranquility in the streets with the presence of police, who along with soldiers are keeping vandalism in check.
Likewise, Paty Solar is pleased that the school attended by her three children is being well-guarded by public security forces.
The government has taken a number of steps as part of a comprehensive strategy to confront the rate of violent crime in a country which, until recently, was seeing more than 20 murders a day.
The National Citizen Security and Community Living Council recently reviewed progress on the implementation of 27 prioritized measures in the Safe El Salvador Plan, supervised by a Follow-up and Coordination Commission.
The 27 actions were chosen from among 133 proposals in the Plan, developed by the National Council which includes representatives from all sectors of society.
The measures address five key areas; crime prevention; criminal prosecution; rehabilitation and reinsertion of prisoners; attention to and protection of victims; and strengthening of institutionality.
In the area of violence prevention, one effort which is making progress is the establishment of Fulltime Inclusive Schools in 10 municipalities prioritized in the first phase of the Plan's implementation, where students attend double sessions and participate in a variety of academic, recreational and cultural activities.
As for rehabilitation and reinsertion of prisoners, being promoted is a graduated regime of incarceration which is progressing to part time release for 3,000 convicts (1/3 women), in addition to supervised release for another 2,000.
In El Salvador, prisons have been over-crowded for at least 20 years. To cite but one example, the Esperanza prison, known as the Mariona, the country's largest, was designed for 800 prisoners, but is currently holding 5,146.
In this comprehensive battle against a problem which the Salvadoran people have identified in polls as their principal concern, a number of entities are collaborating, including private business, the Ministries of Labor and Economy, as well as non-governmental organizations advocating for prisoners.
A sensitive issue is that of victim protection, and the government has set up facilities within exemplary hospitals in the 10 prioritized municipalities to meet the healthcare needs of persons affected by violence.
Special temporary and extraordinary dispositions at penitentiaries and prison farms, meant to promote greater security, were approved by the legislative Assembly this past April, and signed the same day by President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, have already shown results.
The goal of these measures is to rehabilitate facilities, assure the efficiency of the system, and permanently protect the population from crimes which have their origin within the prison system itself.
One of the extraordinary measures was an order to transport almost 300 leaders of criminal organizations to a special detention center, and the government has declared a state of emergency at seven prisons where there are significant numbers of gang members. Also created was a special rapid response force with more than 1,000 specially trained army troops and National Civil Police units.
Since President Sánchez Cerén took office, he has demonstrated his commitment to the Salvadoran people to reduce violence in El Salvador, a country which has for many years been listed among the world's most dangerous.
His commitment is evident in the comprehensive action taken by his administration, seeking a sustainable, definitive solution, despite the unwillingness of the country's right wing opposition, the Alianza Republicana Nacionalista, to allocate needed funds for the initiatives, while at the same time calling for action against violent crime.