The experience of Ana Martinez* in El Salvador is emblematic of a much larger problem in Central America, Mexico and other areas of Latin America. The rule of law, especially in recent decades, has deteriorated beyond recognition, where excruciatingly high rates of violent crime and homicides have defanged civil society.
The Salvadoran mother of two managed to slip through the fingers of a gang out to kill her two years ago, forcing her to relocate five times since then to save her and her two teenagers’ lives.
““I want to leave the country,” 45-year-old Martinez tells Al Jazeera.
“I can’t take this agony any more.”
In March 2016, gang members abducted, beat and threatened to kill Martinez’s 16-year-old son as he walked in broad daylight between his school and his family’s home in territory controlled by the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, in San Ramon, Cuscutlan, located about 40km east of the capital city.
His kidnappers made it clear that his mother was the real target.
Martinez suspects she was singled out for her activism, especially her work supporting a victim of domestic violence in bringing down her abuser, an MS-13 member.
Her son managed to get out alive, and the family immediately fled their home, leaving everything behind.
Martinez is one of 220,000 Salvadorans uprooted in 2016 and 296,000 in 2017 by generalised violence linked to a more than two-decade-old gang war and 15 years of the government’s “iron fist” crackdown on violent crime.“
This article originally appeared in Reuters