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Disappearances in the Post-Transition Era in Latin America$
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Karina Ansolabehere, Barbara A. Frey, and Leigh A. Payne

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780197267226

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197267226.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 03 July 2022

A New Generation of Disappearances: Gangs and the State in El Salvador

A New Generation of Disappearances: Gangs and the State in El Salvador

(p.189) 12 A New Generation of Disappearances: Gangs and the State in El Salvador
Disappearances in the Post-Transition Era in Latin America

María José Méndez

British Academy

Around 17,000 Salvadorans have disappeared in the third decade of the post-conflict period (2010-2020). This number more than doubles the estimated 8,000 people who disappeared during the Salvadoran Civil War (1980-1992). Despite its astounding scale, the phenomenon of disappearance in El Salvador has garnered little attention from the international community and has yet to be fully examined. This chapter redresses this invisibility by contrasting a top-down and a bottom-up view on the phenomenon. According to state government officials, disappearances primarily occur at the hands of the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 gangs. Those inhabiting the peripheries of El Salvador and suffering the deep psychological impact of having a missing relative also hold transnational gangs responsible. However, they connect the phenomenon to abuses by state forces and to complex entanglements between state agents and gangs. Drawing on fieldwork conducted in El Salvador in 2018, this chapter argues that the new generation of disappearances in El Salvador must be analysed in relation to a broader continuum of state violations and state-criminal relations. It also points to the crucial need to engage the perspectives of relatives of the disappeared to make fuller sense of the phenomenon

Keywords:   Barrio 18, Disappearance, El Salvador, Human rights, Mara Salvatrucha, State violence, Transnational gangs

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