Thursday, July 11, 2013

Gangs for War and Gangs for Peace

Having the knowledge that there is a downward trend in the numbers of wars/violent conflicts gives a small amount of hope for peace. However, with each step towards the lowering the frequency of war I find my vigilance grows to have less violence. With that sentiment, I was greatly interested in to research the experiences of those in Latin America.

A few years ago the Mexican government took a very strong stand against gang violence. Well the expected gang response came to life. Once peaceful, tourist cities such as Monterrey began a very quick slide into chaos. The gang violence spread into Central American countries such as Honduras, El Salvador and continued on into South America.

There are a number of contributing factors for such a widespread connectivity. The factors of commonality are the drug trade and political/governmental distrust.  In short, corruption was/is a large problem for Latin America. In order to get past the distrust there had to be discussions which included everyone. This inclusion is a very difficult matter.

Often governments are unwilling or unable to meet with known criminals yet, that is exactly what needs to take place. In the case of El Salvador the religious avenue was a very attractive method to negotiate through. As these discussions were being put together, the government realized that years of war had built the distrust in politicians. The gang leaders realized that they were a large contributor to the continued decay of peace. Both the politicians and the gang leaders realized that the target audience for their messages had to be the youth.

Those revelations are ones that need to be emphasized in peace efforts. Such a mindset is one that will enable community programs to thrive and peace will be realized quicker and last longer. In another manner the blame for current chaos is shared not heaped upon others. In the case of El Salvador all sides understood their responsibility in allowing peace to be destroyed.

As the talks played out there were many issues that caused major problems. For some in the general public they thought that certain gang leaders were using violence to gain political power/favour. Others felt that gang members were being treated with greater respect than law abiding citizens. Now it just so happens that these are very common concerns in all peace efforts.

We can look what has taken place in Syria. The use of violence is a method to gain political power. We often hear the phrase that certain leaders do not negotiate with terrorists. How often has the president of Syria or the former president of Iran talked directly with any western leader? Such efforts for dialogue are circumvented through a maze of offices. On a similar level we have Egypt where a legitimate government is overthrown buy the military. Now we have another religious war breaking out even though peace was being asked for by the people.

The root cause for most of these wars rests in the hunger for power, control and inflexibility of mind. We see in the example of El Salvador how all sides kept blaming each other for the reality of violence. The violence could not stop until all sides understood their role and responsibility for continuation of violence. The same goes for what is taking place in Syria, Egypt, Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq, Columbia, Pakistan, and the list goes on.

As we learn of such efforts to peace, the methods and strategies are so easily understood. The difficulty is to act as perfectly peaceful as possible, this is our largest hurdle and that war begins in each of our minds, no matter where you live or religion you label yourself as. We (you the reader included) have made great strides in peace efforts and we must acknowledge that success. However the work is still in need as peace is still not a reality for many.

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