Courses Aim to Give Gang Members a New Life

Church in El Salvador Offers Training to Youths

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SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador, AUG. 24, 2005 ( The Archdiocese of San Salvador is offering courses in professional formation to rehabilitate youths who are members of the country’s feared gangs.

At a press conference after Mass on Sunday, Archbishop Fernando Sáenz Lacalle said that every day «we hear news of terrible violence by the gangs.»

«We must go to their help to extricate them from this wave of violence in which they are submerged,» he said.

According to official sources quoted by the EFE news agency, there are about 10,500 gang members in El Salvador. Most are in the gangs Salvatrucha Mob and Mob 18, to which the government attributes 60% of the murders that occur in this country of 6.7 million.

Since August 2004, the government has carried out the «Super Hard Hand Plan» against the gangs, an operation that culminated last Thursday in the capture of 29 gang members accused of murders on the outskirts of San Salvador and in the department of La Libertad.

Thousands arrested

The Super Hard Hand Plan gives continuity to the Hard Hand Plan launched in July 2003 by the government of President Francisco Flores, which succeeded in arresting 16,000 gang members, some captured several times after being released.

Archbishop Sáenz Lacalle reported that a parish in Ciudad Delgado, northwest of San Salvador, has succeeded in rehabilitating a complete gang, whose members have been trained for various jobs.

The archbishop added that, though it is necessary «to take all measures» to contain the gang members’ wave of violence, «the experience in the Calle Real Parish is very positive» and must be reproduced.

The youths, he lamented, «are immersed in this wave of great lack of training, of deformation of conscience and of violence.»

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