LSE LACC Blog: From firm hand to handshake: violence and negotiated governance in El Salvador

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by: Viviana García Pinzón

Negotiating local governance

Take, for example, the safety measures adopted by municipal officials from the Ministry of Public Works, Transport, and Housing.

It is not for nothing that in certain areas these officials are never deployed on the 13th or 18th of the month: these numbers are linked to the country’s two largest gangs, with 13 representing the M in Mara Salvatrucha and 18 relating to their rivals Barrio 18. Sometimes, one official told me, new gang members are expected to commit an act of violence as a rite of passage, and these two symbolic dates are often chosen. Public servants from the ministry can easily become targets for this kind of violent action because they will be seen as outsiders to the neighbourhoods in question.

Similarly, officials in the field are given bright yellow clothing so that they can easily be recognised as employees of the ministry. The basic and crucial aim is to prevent them from being mistaken for members of the security forces.

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