One of Central America’s most violent countries is getting a $42 million boost to help shed its image as one of the world’s most murderous nations.
The U.S. Agency for International Development is teaming up with five foundations in El Salvador to help bring homicides and gang violence under control in 50 of El Salvador’s most dangerous communities.
The program will focus on at-risk youths and helping cities develop anti-crime plans, said Mark Feierstein, USAID’s assistant administrator for Latin America. Feierstein said this is the largest partnership in USAID history with the private sector in one country.
The private sector, he said, is increasingly realizing that “they have a role to play as well in investing in youths, providing them with safe places to play and to learn, offering training, workforce development.”
The focus on El Salvador is part of the Partnership for Growth initiative launched by President Barack Obama two years ago to focus U.S. government agencies’ resources around promoting economic growth. Studies from the World Bank, the United Nations and USAID increasingly show that crime and violence are major obstacles to growing economies.
“We’re a development agency,” Feierstein said. “It’s our sense that we can’t be successful in promoting development unless we could help to reduce crime.”
With a population of six million, El Salvador has one of the world’s highest homicide rates. An estimated 50,000 citizens are members of terrorizing street gangs.
In 2011, the country registered a homicide rate of 69.2 per 100,000, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. A controversial gang truce, brokered in March 2012, has been credited with bringing a 40 percent drop in the homicide rate in 2012.