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El Salvador army special forces and police officers, part of a new stepped-up phase in the government's fight against gangs, San Salvador, April, 20, 2016 (AP photo by Salvador Melendez).

El Salvador’s ‘Iron Fist’: Inside Its Unending War on Gangs

Monday, June 6, 2016

Last week, El Salvador’s president, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, celebrated two years in office. El Faro, the country’s premier online investigative news source, acknowledged the milestone with a feature titled, “Seven Years of Governing Like ARENA.” It was a pointed commentary on the policy similarities between Sanchez Ceren’s left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) and its rival party, the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), which were also foes on the battlefield during El Salvador’s 12-year civil war.

Since assuming office, Sanchez Ceren, a former leftist guerrilla commander, has continued the hard-line policies on gangs that go back to ARENA-led governments in the 2000s, in an effort to stem the rising tide of violence in the country. But critics are increasingly wary of his administration’s so-called war on gangs, which has recently been linked to state abuses and extrajudicial killings. ...

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