How a Salvadoran market became the soul of a community — and now fights to survive
In the early hours of Friday morning, October 29, police officers swept through the streets of El Salvador’s capital, Los Angeles, in search of alleged gang members.
They came from across the country, including San Salvador, as part of a national campaign known as the “Plan Nación” that aims to bring the country’s street gangs under control.
El Salvador’s gangs are among the oldest and strongest in the world, and they have been largely unchallenged in the decades since their founding in the early 1970s. Some have risen to become the most vicious in the world, and the Salvadoran government describes them as a threat to society.
As they sweep through the capital, officers arrested at least three people and accused them of belonging to the gang Eme. (Los Angeles Times)
More than 2,000 people were imprisoned for suspected link to gangs in El Salvador. This September, a judge issued an arrest warrant against nine people in addition to Eme members, and more than 100,000 people have been detained over the last 10 years, according to the government.
The arrests came amid political uncertainty in the country following a disputed election and the end of a more than two-decade old civil war. And while the government has a legal record of arresting people based on accusations of gang ties, these individuals were not formally indicted.
This week’s sweep of streets in Los Angeles and across the United States, where many have grown up in gang territory, could signal a sea change for gangs in the United States.
“If it’s ever going to change, it’s going to take a movement,” said Alexia Hernandez, a community organizer and gang expert at the University of Denver. “You cannot turn on the TV and see the same thing going on. People must take action themselves when they see the conditions that put children into gang