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El Salvador: the limits of a violent peace

By M. Hume


This chapter exposes the limits of El Salvador’s ‘peace’. In particular, it analyses the development of post-conflict violence, exposing both ‘continuities’ with and ‘discontinuities’ from historical processes. I emphasise that more than a debate between ‘old’ and ‘new’ violence, it is important to explore how the political and economic imperatives of neoliberalism reinforce and indeed exacerbate historic structural conditions of inequality and exclusion. Moreover, exclusionary and polarised political attitudes still shape the ways in which violence is understood and legislated against in the post-war period. First, the discussion introduces the limited political context of peacebuilding, emphasising the ‘narrowness’ of the process, both in terms of the actors involved and the scope of the agreement for mandating reform. I then examine the changing panorama of violent actors, paying particular attention to the issue of youth gangs, who are arguably the most symbolic representation of ‘new’ violence in the post-war context. The emergence of violent non-state actors is now seen as one of the greatest threats to democratic governance in the region (McCoy, 2006). Less attention is paid to the role of the state and civil society in perpetuating this violence: the final sections of the chapter therefore explore the emergence of gangs and offer a critical analysis of both state and society’s response to the issue of violence. A key argument of this chapter is that violence in El Salvador has not emerged in a political or economic vacuum. It is a product of uneven development and political choices as well as being reliant on the active engagement of civil society for its reproduction. For this reason, the discussion is structured around three key themes which are reflective of certain continuities along historic axes of conflict: violence, exclusion and polarisation

Topics: F1201, JA
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Year: 2008
DOI identifier: 10.1057/9780230228740_19
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Enlighten
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