The gang conflict in El Salvador dates back to the civil war (1980-1992) when young Salvadorian refugees in Los Angeles, California became involved with street gangs as a means of protection. After the war was over, the U.S. government started deporting members of Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18, thereby exporting gang culture to Central America. Today there are an estimated 60,000 gang members at large; and another 9,000 in prison. Criminal youth gangs dominate life in El Salvador, which has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Other crimes committed by these groups range from extortion and drug trafficking to sexual assault, all of which security forces have been largely ineffective in preventing. With 38,700 people in prison (nearly 4 times the capacity of the country’s penal system), locking up criminals is no longer a sustainable option. The conflict in El Salvador is very complex with many contributing factors, and considering there is no clear solution in sight, the situation most precarious.
Giles Campbell is a documentary photographer from Toronto, Canada. His work throughout Latin America and North Africa have been documented with a blend of street photography and photojournalism. With an interest on the more transgressive aspects of society, he has also photographed projects in Canada such his series ‘Peace, Love, and Good Jib’ which focuses on life in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.