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

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

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. It is also one of 30 that we’ve selected from our archives to celebrate World Politics Review’s 15th anniversary. You can find the full collection here. 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 […]

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