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Published:May 20th, 2006 04:59 EST
USAID Releases Central America and Mexico Gang Assessment Report

USAID Releases Central America and Mexico Gang Assessment Report

By SOP newswire

WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has completed and released an assessment of gangs in Central America and Mexico, with a focus on El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua. Due to an increase in reports of accounts of gang-related violence across Central America and the United States in 2005, USAID decided to conduct the assessment to study the phenomenon, understand the underlying problems and propose solutions to assisting these groups.

The assessment summarizes the impacts of gang activity on development in the region; identifies the root causes of gang activity; analyzes the unique transnational characteristics of the phenomenon; and recommends opportunities wherein the U.S. Government can best address the gang issue from a policy and programmatic standpoint. Key findings of the assessment include:

  • Marginalized urban areas are the breeding grounds of gang activity. Fueling the problem in these areas are high levels of youth unemployment compounded by insufficient access to education and economic opportunities, family disintegration and intra-familial violence, easy access to drugs and small arms, and overwhelmed and ineffective justice systems that include prisons which serve as gang training camps.
  • Effectively halting the spread of gang violence in the long term will require a combination of prevention, intervention, and law enforcement approaches. To date, countries have largely responded by stepping up law enforcement efforts alone, sometimes at the expense of due process and human rights, with much less attention to prevention and intervention. This imbalanced approach has not been successful as crime levels have not gone down.
  • USAID, in collaboration with other federal Agencies, donors, the private sector, faith-based organizations, and community development organizations, is uniquely positioned to address the gang problem by supporting policies and community-based programs that address the root causes of youth gang proliferation and unite the prevention, intervention, and law enforcement dimensions.

Over an 8 month period, USAID worked in conjunction with implementing partners in each of the five assessment countries to collect quantitative and qualitative data through interviews representing a range of individuals - government officials from all levels of government, civil society, media, private sector, faith-based groups, USAID and other U.S. government representatives, as well as current and former gang members.

The assessment and related information can be found at: http://www.usaid.gov/locations/latin_america_caribbean/democracy/gangs.html