Humanitarian assistance from religious leaders is gang-controlled in El Salvador

In El Salvador, isolation measures are not only imposed by the government. In areas with little or no state presence, the control exercised by criminal groups has been adapted and strengthened in the COVID-19 context.

Although gangs, such as the MS-13, often imposed curfews in the country; this and other measures have been intensified to prevent the spread of the virus among communities living under the control of these groups.

In the midst of this situation, religious groups or leaders who have chosen to care for those most in need and provide humanitarian aid, such as the distribution of food, can only do so if they have the authorization of the gangs that hold the control in the area.

While the authorities in El Salvador have launched the Territorial Control Plan as a security strategy, it is unclear whether this plan is effective. On the other hand, taking into account the government’s attention in controlling the pandemic, many areas remain under the gang´s scrutiny, including communities and religious leaders whose work often depends exclusively on the consent of the gangs.

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The Observatory of Religious Freedom in Latin America is a program of the Foundation Platform for Social Transformation, a registered charity in Voorburg, The Netherlands under Chamber of Commerce #50264249.

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