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Spotlight: El Salvador, A Christmas Plea For Peace

Police officers in El Salvador
Police officers in El Salvador
Benjamin Witte

Make it stop! That's the message delivered this week by an organization of Protestant churches in El Salvador, Central America's smallest but deadliest country.

The group, known as the Pastoral Initiative for Life and Peace, or IPAZ, is hoping that for the week between Christmas and New Year, gang members, security forces, operatives of so-called death squads and others responsible for the nation's horrific homicide numbers will accept a temporary "peace pact."

"This time of year lends itself to concrete gestures of peace. This may not be an open war. But the violence is killing us," IPAZ declared in a statement released Tuesday.

The organization's desperate Christmas plea — that the killings cease, even if just for a week — underscores just how devastating the situation continues to be in El Salvador, where last year, authorities reported more than 6,600 homicides, by far the highest annual total since the end of the country's civil war (1980-1992) more than a decade earlier.

This year the numbers are down somewhat. As of Dec. 7, the murder tally stood at 5,034, the PNC, El Salvador's national police force, reported. But that's still a staggering total for country that is roughly the same size, both in terms of land area and population, as the U.S. state of Massachusetts. By contrast, 133 people were murdered in Massachusetts last year, according to the Boston Globe.

Beyond this latest plea for a temporary truce, the deeper question is how to reverse the culture and cycles of violence. The current government, headed by President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, a civil war-era guerrilla commander, has opted for a zero-tolerance approach to the gangs. But that's just led to even more violence, including an uptick in killings of and by police officers and military. Ten police officers were killed in November alone, El Diario de Hoy reported.

Speaking with the San Salvador daily last month, top Salvadoran crime analyst Carlos Carcach reflected on the various strategies of the past: "It seems like no matter what we do, we end up worse, sicker than we were before." In both its simplicity and realism, calling for a Christmas truce at least reminds the country that it is obliged to keep trying.

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Violence Against Women, The Patriarchy And Responsibility Of The Good Men Too

The femicide of Giulia Cecchettin has shaken Italy, and beyond. Argentine journalist Ignacio Pereyra looks at what lies behind femicides and why all men must take more responsibility.

photo of a young man holding a sign: Filippo isn't a monster, he's the healthy son of the patriarchy

A protester's sign referring to the alleged killer reads: Filippo isn't a monster, he's the healthy son of the patriarchy

Matteo Nardone/Pacific Press via ZUMA Press
Ignacio Pereyra

Updated Dec. 3, 2023 at 10:40 p.m.


ATHENS — Are you going to write about what happened in Italy?, Irene, my partner, asks me. I have no idea what she's talking about. She tells me: a case of femicide has shaken the country and has been causing a stir for two weeks.

As if the fact in itself were not enough, I ask what is different about this murder compared to the other 105 women murdered this year in Italy (or those that happen every day around the world).

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We are talking about a country where the expression "fai l'uomo" (be a man) abounds, with a society so prone to drama and tragedy and so fond of crime stories as few others, where the expression "crime of passion" is still mistakenly overused.

In this context, the sister of the victim reacted in an unexpected way for a country where femicide is not a crime recognized in the penal code, contrary to what happens, for example, in almost all of Latin America.

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