By Ian Brand-Weiner, Policy Analyst, OECD Development Centre; Katharina Ross, Project Officer Latin America & Asia, Plan International Deutschland e.V; Francesca Cárdenas, Head of Public Relations, Plan International El Salvador; César Pineda, Grants specialist, Plan International El Salvador
Violence holds El Salvador’s economic and social development potential hostage. Violence and inequalities often reinforce each other in Latin America: countries with higher levels of inequality tend to have higher rates of intentional homicides (Figure 1). El Salvador, however, stands out. Its homicide rate is disproportionately high compared to its level of inequality. The small Central American country surpassed Honduras and Venezuela in 2015 to become the most violent country in the Americas, with 108 homicides per 100 000 inhabitants.
The violence and its consequences are costing the government, households and enterprises 16% of GDP annually. These costs include expenses for public and private security, extortion, medical treatments, preventing and combating violence, the penitentiary system, and the opportunity costs for those in prison or forced to emigrate. These costs exclude the intangible ones, such as the suffering of victims and their families, the long-term fear and psychological effects impacting their employability and that of future generations, and decreased trust in the community and state.