Once again, President Trump is tweeting and using MS 13 to whip up public fear for his demand to construct a border wall.
It is time for the new generation of Salvadoran American students to start speaking up. We need to have our own voice to counter Trump’s criminalization rhetoric. We cannot afford to remain silent and invisible!
I was born in the United States but was deported to El Salvador as a baby in the early ‘70s with my mother because her visa expired.
I spent my childhood in El Salvador, but we returned to the United States and landed in the infamous South Central Los Angeles neighborhood. I attended some of the lowest performing and most violent public schools. I befriended many of the Central American immigrant children of the 1980s especially since I had gone through similar experiences of arriving in the U.S. not knowing how to speak English.
I witnessed and was a victim of hate crimes in South Central Los Angeles, but I survived through reading, writing, and perseverance. I also witnessed first hand various shootings and some murders. Many of my friends were victims and targets since they were the new arrivals – the new immigrants.
Now I write to spread knowledge and to heal from the pain that we witnessed and endured in El Salvador and in South Central in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Let’s review some of El Salvador’s history and U.S. involvement there during the ’80s.
The Civil War lasted 12 years from 1980 to 1992, and unfortunately El Salvador is still not safe 26 years after the peace accords ended the bloody civil war.
Back in the ‘80s, Central America was a hot spot. President Reagan used inflated claims about communism triumphing there and creeping across our southern border to justify aiding and arming death squads in El Salvador and backing the right-wing government.
Today, the violence revolves not around politics but around gangs. Just as the United States played a role in the civil war, it also play a role in the gang violence. And President Trump needs to acknowledge the United States involvement in El Salvador during the Cold War years.
In El Salvador, many children were used as child soldiers and guerrilla fighters. They saw atrocities and were trained and forced to commit horrendous tortures and murders against their own people and family members.
No mental health services were offered in El Salvador, and refugees did not have mental health support when they arrived in the U.S. during the ‘80s and ‘90s.
The civil war against left-wing rebels claimed the lives of more than 80,000 people. Many of the murdered were innocent, working-class civilians who supported neither the soldiers nor the guerrillas.
The United States is still a source of instability in El Salvador in various ways.
First, it continues to deport thousands of inmates who had been imprisoned for gang-related issues. The jails in El Salvador do not have the capacity to hold the large numbers of inmates deported by the United States, so now many of these criminals roam the streets and prey on innocent civilians. They have implemented a system of daily extortions or commonly known in Spanish language as la renta – the rent.
Second, the demand for illegal drugs in the United States fuels the gangs and the lucrative business of importing and exporting drugs through El Salvador.
When President Donald Trump obsessively denounces the MS 13 gang, he continues to instill fear, but he does not offer any solutions to help El Salvador fight the crime and violence.
A couple of solutions would be to provide strategic U.S. aid to El Salvador to fight the endemic poverty and to return to the original monetary system of el colon.
In 2001, under the leadership of now deceased President Francisco Flores, the dollar was officially adopted as the national currency. Flores promised unparalleled economic prosperity and growth for all Salvadorans. But the prosperity never came for the masses.
Mr. Flores promised more foreign investments for El Salvador, and as a result, he proceeded with dollarizing the currency without consulting the citizenry. This has had a negative impact on domestic small-business owners, while the foreign large-business owners have benefited from it. The middle class practically disappeared.
Now it is clearly a country of the have and have nots, the gap between the rich and poor is astounding. This stark inequality provides fertile ground for continuous gang recruits who cannot find any jobs and who decide to extort and hurt their own people.
A left wing or right wing Salvadoran presidential candidate can indeed win the 2019 elections by committing to convince the Salvadoran National Assembly to eliminate the dollar as the monetary system and to return to el colon.
Returning to el colon would indeed help for El Salvador would stop being a magnet for criminal organizations, cartels, that purposely set up operations there due to easy access to dollars. Even El Chapo had set up shop in El Salvador to transport drugs from South America through El Salvador, to Mexico and the United States.
A different solution, which former GOP presidential candidate, Ron Paul, controversially supports, is legalizing drugs in the United States so as to take the criminal element and the violence out of the drug trade.
This drug trade and the gangs that feed off it are ruining El Salvador since some cartels are now extensively operating in Central America.
Salvadorans have not really known peace for decades. They, like everyone else in this world, deserve a chance at a normal life.
The United States should help give them that chance, not just through deportations, but through actual aid/funding that would help create jobs in El Salvador. This would help in gang prevention and to create more stability in order to stop some of the push factors that force Salvadorans to flee their home country.
Mr. Trump, stop using fear mongering! Instead start creating foreign policies that will actually help to reduce the violence in El Salvador. You have an opportunity to create some innovative solutions.
I also plea with the new generation of hundreds of thousands of Salvadoran Americans and Central American students in the United States to begin organizing and speaking up for their own community. We must become more visible in this public debate.
Randy Jurado Ertll, author of the novel The Lives and Times of El Cipitio/La Vida y los Tiempos del Cipitio. His author web site is WWW.RANDYJURADOERTLL.COM
Randy Jurado Ertll
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