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Call for social capital investments in democracy

Two former Foreign Ministers of  El Salvador, Oscar Santamaría and Fidel Chávez Mena, said their country has made democratic progress, but warned that it is threatened by gang violence and social inequalities. Though fifteen years has passed since the peace accord was reached, El Salvador still faces challenges in such areas.

The largest challenge is devising an economic model that delivers equality, said Chávez Mena during a conference held at the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, DC. “It is important to take citizen participation into account in an economic model; the private sector must play a key role as the principal engine of development, but there also has to be a solid government institutional structure in place,” he added, because economic growth by itself does not guarantee democracy.

Chávez Mena called for social capital investments to continue democractic progress and to prevent violence from endangering economic development. Youth gangs called Maras and family breakups, he warned, jeopardize the economic developments achieved by El Salvador, which transformed itself into an exporting country, thanks to globalization and post-conflict economic reforms that emphasized privatization and open markets.

On the other hand, former Foreign Minister Santamaría said that El Salvador needs a new opportunity: a concerted effort to end instability. He recalled the lessons learned from the reconciliation process, emphasizing the importance of combining support from the international community with local responsibility, multilateral interventions instead of bilateral ones, and a program to reinsert people from violence to economic activity. Finally, he said that without political will, the peace agreement wouldn't have become a reality on January 16, 1992.

IDB supports alternatives to youth gangs

Two studies commissioned by the IDB were presented to government officials to help them devise strategies to prevent youth violence and crime in Latin America and the Caribbean: Maras y Pandillas en la Región Mesoamericana y el Caribe – Una Visión Comparativa (Gangs in the Mesoamerican Region and the Caribbean – A Comparative View) by Colombian researcher Mauricio Rubio, based on observations from Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic; and Policía y Seguridad – Un Nuevo Paradigma (Police and Security – A New Paradigm) by the Chilean academic Hugo Fruhling.

The IDB has provided financial support for efforts by national and local authorities, civil society groups and the private sector to reduce violence and crime in the region. Such programs include assistance for developing security and youth policies; strengthening security and human development agencies, NGOs and municipalities; modernizing police forces; preventing youth violence and crime; and carrying out communications and awareness campaigns.

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