Gangs extort at leisure in the El Salvadoran capital, making a mockery of police and the state. Could this again happen in Colombian cities like MedellÃn?
We have a habit in Colombia of talking about all the things we can learn from cities that are better organized, or more innovative and civic-minded than our own. But there are also lessons to be gleaned by looking at cities — some not so far from here — that are on the opposite end of the spectrum, where lawlessness prevails and the state is seemingly powerless to stop it.
That is precisely the situation in San Salvador, El Salvador, where maras, as local street gangs are known, have taken effective control of the city's historical center. The Salvadoran news site El Faro published a recent exposé on the crime-ridden country's crime-ridden capital. There, gangs have formed their own kind of city government headed by "junior mayors," shady characters who sit outside shops and give instructions to "minor officials," in this case a posse of gangsters wearing baseball caps and Nike sneakers.