Dynamics of Violence in El Salvador

dc.contributor.advisorHolmes, Jennifer S.
dc.creatorPavon Tercero, Viveca Maria Leonela
dc.date.submittedAugust 2018
dc.description.abstractCentral America is the deadliest region in the world. The UNODC reports that the level of violence in this region is higher than in any single nation, including those at war. El Salvador’s 2015 homicide rate was listed as the highest for any country in nearly 20 years. This research seeks to better explain policies within El Salvador and how they continue to affect gang activities and crime. The research also seeks to fill in the gap on gang network dynamics and their level of power in affecting policies. I begin by exploring the policies implemented in the early 2000s and explaining how they have had a significant effect in gang development but also in political gain for acting parties. In an attempt to maintain control over a territory state leaders may chose policies that favor a public appearance of control. This study seeks to address if a country is willing to implement ’punitive populism’ in exchange for votes by analyzing the case of El Salvador. I argue that despite numerous failed attempts at controlling violence through punitive policies the country continues to enforce these actions and use them as platforms for future elections. Chapter three in this research uses social network analysis (SNA) to identify the temporal relationship between paired municipalities according to homicide. This method looks at the interconnectivity of homicide counts from one year and the next between municipalities, meaning that it is evaluating how two seemingly distinct regions can be responding to each other when it comes to homicide rates. The idea is to identify which municipalities are responding to crime in other municipalities around the country. This becomes a critical aspect of violence in the country because gangs can react to a specific event by attacking regions where rival gangs operate, not necessarily adjacent areas. In this study I conducted a single datum correlation coefficient (SDCC) to create this network connection. Using SNA we can better identify what regions of the country are of interest during a specific point in time and can help policy makers establish areas needing additional backing. This novel method introduces a new way of observing criminal behavior and helps identify hubs of criminal activity as well as vulnerable relationships among municipalities which could be indicative of gang retaliation areas. The 2012 Peace agreement in El Salvador between Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 was an unprecedented truce between two of the deadliest rival gangs in Latin America. This agreement serves as an indication of cooperation with a greater purpose between groups that had been deemed unorganized. This raises concerns of what circumstances will facilitate cooperation between rival groups and what can be expected of this collaboration. Following the truce there was a genuine fear that gangs in El Salvador could become political actors by using Violent Lobbying and/or Violent Corruption. Even though the gangs have not proven to have political power there is still a fear that they can continue to influence politicians behind closed doors. This paper seeks to identify the tactics the gangs could use if they did attempt to lobby the state. These specific violent acts help us understand what pressures the government of El Salvador could have been facing that led to the truce being agreed upon. It also distinguishes what changes in violence the country experienced during and after the agreement. In order to identify these specific patterns I use event data analysis on newspaper stories from El Diario de Hoy to help identify is any coercive methods where used by las maras. These three chapters evaluate different aspects of violence in El Salvador originating from gang activity. I begin with a historical approach of policy implementation help introduce how the gangs developed and how they gained power to be able to influence violence beyond the reach of direct contiguity. I conclude by presenting past uses of violence with a direct purpose in order to understand the level of political power the gangs could obtain for future gain.
dc.rights©2018 The Author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Eugene McDermott Library. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
dc.subjectGangs—El Salvador
dc.subjectSocial networks
dc.subjectHomicide—El Salvador
dc.subjectCriminal behavior, Prediction of—El Salvador
dc.subjectPower (Social sciences)—El Salvador
dc.subjectCriminology—El Salvador
dc.titleDynamics of Violence in El Salvador
thesis.degree.departmentPublic Policy and Political Economy
thesis.degree.grantorThe University of Texas at Dallas


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