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Gang violence in El Salvador fuelling country’s child migration crisis
Warring gangs and crime are prompting more
youngsters to leave their families and homes
and seek refuge in the US
Nina Lakhani in San Salvador, Tuesday 18 November 2014
Calle 18 gang members at Quezaltepeque jail, west of San Salvador.
Photograph: Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images
Reinaldo Menéndez threw himself into his grandmother’s
outstretched arms, relieved to be back on Salvadorian
soil after an unsuccessful attempt to reach the United States.
The 16-year-old had left his home in El Congo, a small
town 35 miles west of the capital, San Salvador, three
weeks earlier, after members of the MS-13 street gang
threatened to kill him outside his school. Reinaldo
lived with his grandmother in a neighbourhood controlled
by rival gang Calle 18, making him an inadvertent enemy of MS-13.
“I want to go to school but the gangs won’t let
me cross into the neighbourhood, so we decided I
should try to reach Arkansas, where my mum lives,” he
said. “I don’t really know my mum because she left me
with my grandmother when I was just a few months old
to find work, but at least in America it would be safe to
go to school.”