A few days ago, I noted the Obama administration’s plans to pour even more public money into funding Central America’s repressive security forces. Rudy Giuliani wants his cut.
The former NYC mayor, through his security consulting firm, has been advising Salvadoran business leaders on security issues. In May, he told them that their country’s two major gangs “need to be annihilated,” a remark that received some attention among those who pay attention to Central America. Belén Fernández here puts Giuiliani’s advice in a larger context of unbearable daily violence. Michael Busch, the editor of the invaluable Warscapes magazine, said in Jacobin that the remark was part of a proposal that “calls for heftier crackdowns on criminal activities, changes to the country’s legal system, and, curiously enough, reforms to the law governing private investment.” Curious in that advocates of “free trade” don’t usually argue that economic “liberalization” both generates and profits from greater police repression. But it does.
Those gangs that Giuliani wants annihilated are a wholesale creation of Washington’s war on El Salvador during the 1980s: “Over a half-million impoverished and war-shocked Salvadorans fled to the United States. Once in Los Angeles, and later in other cities, Salvadorans formed street gangs as a way to protect themselves from more established gangs. When many of them were deported to their home country in the 1990s, they imported the US gang culture and levels of violence not seen previously in El Salvador, or in the rest of Central America,” writes Carlos Rosales at Open Democracy. The same pattern holds for Honduras and Guatemala. In these three countries, refugees fleeing Washington-funded death squads were treated like criminals when they arrived in the United States. So some of them became criminals. In contrast, Nicaraguan refugees in the 1980s fled a country, governed by the Sandinistas, that the United States was at war with, so they were treated much better, along the lines of anti-Castro Cubans. This differential is an important reason (though not the only one) why Nicaragua today doesn’t have the same gang problem as does Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.