For most Salvadorans, it’s difficult to avoid the nation’s gangs, vast networks that manifest their power through extortion and territorial control. Why, then, do so many Salvadorans vilify a man who had made extraordinary progress toward easing gang violence? In the May issue of Harper’s Magazine, Daniel Castro follows Raúl Mijango, an ex-guerrilla commander who had built seemingly impossible inroads between the gangs and the Salvadoran government, only for it all to crumble. “The story of the truce and its dissolution is central to understanding the United States’ responsibility for the current migration crisis,” Castro writes, “and it suggests what it might take to comprehensively address the root problem of gang violence in El Salvador today.”
In this week’s episode, web editor Violet Lucca speaks with Castro about the origins of the violence, who stands to benefit from sustaining the conflict, and the price paid in the name of security.