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A suspected member of one of the gangs in El Salvador being detained by police. A man is detained on suspicion of having links to a gang, San Juan Opico, El Salvador, April 1, 2015 (AP photo by Salvador Melendez).

El Salvador’s ‘Iron Fist’ Crackdown on Gangs: A Lethal Policy With U.S. Origins

Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018

Editor’s Note: In July 2019, this story received an Honorable Mention by the National Press Club for the Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence, which recognizes excellence in reporting on diplomatic and foreign policy issues.

For 15 years, El Salvador’s zero-tolerance approach to gangs—known as mano dura, or iron fist—has resulted in devastating violence while failing to address the root causes of the crimes it’s supposed to eliminate. Yet this approach to dealing with gangs in El Salvador remains a favorite of politicians, and it has a new backer in the Trump administration. ...

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