Bombing in Cojutepeque

Over the weekend, the Latin American Herald Tribune and El Diario de Hoy reported that Friday two teenagers were killed and four others wounded when a bomb or grenade exploded in the downtown area of Cojutepeuque, a city located about 20 miles outside of San Salvador. The youth were in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant when unidentified attackers threw the bomb, which exploded causing severe injuries.  The two teens died before they could receive treatment at the Cojutepeque hospital. 

Investigators have yet to determine who instigated the attack or their motives.  Though violence in El Salvador is increasing, and police report between 10-12 murders everyday, these homicides stand out because the assailants used a bomb.

The bombing occurred two days after the UNDP released a report that ranks Central America as the most violent region in the world. As a region, Central America’s murder rate is 33 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants – the World Health Organization considers a murder rate greater than 10 per 100,000 an epidemic. Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala lead the region with homicide rate of 58, 52, and 48/100,000 respectively.

Hernando Gómez Buendía, who coordinated the report for the UNDP, stressed that the issue is more complex than comparing regional homicide statistics.  Mr. Gómez Buendía cites a survey within the report that reveals the populations’ high sense of insecurity.  For example, 14% of those surveyed had been a victim of a crime in the past year. El Salvador has the highest victimization rates, with 19% reporting that they were victimized.  Only 8.3% of Panamanians, however, reported being the victim of a crime, the lowest in the region. The insecurity that results from violent aggression, rape, kidnapping, corruption, and other crimes has an adverse affect on a country’s development. 

The UNDP report identifies the security policies adopted by Central American governments as a large part of the problem. UNDP official Marcela Smutt says “the policies were insufficient and ineffective in their efforts to control the violence, and they were irresponsible by giving their populations a false sense of security.” The report specifically cites El Salvador’s Super Mano Duro (heavy hand) policy, which was also adopted by Guatemala and Honduras.  The policy enacted a zero tolerance program that violated the basic due process and human rights of those believed to be involved in the violence, without addressing the roots of the violence.  During the life of Super Mano Duro, the homicide rates and violence increased considerably. Gómez Buendía said in an interview “it is necessary to understand that the phenomenon of youth gangs and violence is constantly changing.  We must also consider the issues of organized crime, drug trafficking, and corruption when considering how to address the problem of youth gangs.”


El Salvador Ranked 106 on the Human Development Index

The UN Development Program (UNDP) published the 2009 Human Development Index this week, examining three dimensions of human welfare: living a long and healthy life, having a decent standard of living, and being educated. The Index considers 182 countries, and divides them into four categories: very high human development, high human development, medium human development, and low human development.

The first 38 countries made the very high development category, and include Norway (ranked 1), Australia (ranked 2), and the US (ranked 13). Countries 39-83, which include Bahrain (39), Chile (44) and Peru (78), achieved high human development.  The largest number of countries, numbers 84-158, falls into the middle development category, and El Salvador (106) falls somewhere in the middle of this group.  Other middle development countries include Armenia (84), Guatemala (122), and Honduras (124). The bottom tier include countries such as Togo (159), Ethiopia (171) and Niger (182), that have achieved little in terms of human development.

Despite falling from a raking of 103 in 2007/08 to 106 this year, El Salvador’s overall score rose from .735 to .747.  Since the 1990’s El Salvador’s performance has increased at an annual rate of .99% from a raw score of .573.


Life Expectancy at Birth (years)/Ranking

Adult Literacy Rate (% above 15 years of age)/ Ranking

Combined Gross Enrollment Ratio (%)/ Ranking

GDP Per Capita (PPP US$)/ Ranking

HDI Value/ Ranking

2009 71.3/ 94 82.0/ 96 74.0/ 88 5,804/ 99 .747/ 106
2008 71.3/ 86 80.6/ 89 70.4/ 100 5,255/ 100 .735/103

While these indicators provide an overall view of how a country is development, the UNDP also created other indices that provide a more complete picture of such issues as poverty and the empowerment of women.  The Human Poverty Index (HPI-1) for example examines the proportions of people living below the measure of the HDI.  While considering the same issues of health, education and standard of living, the HPI-1 also looks at adult literacy, percentage of population expected to live past the age of 40, number of people not using water sources, and the percentage of youth who are underweight.

This year, El Salvador’s HPI-1 score is 14.6%, which gave them a ranking of 63 of the 135 countries considered.  In 2008, El Salvador had a score of 15.1% and was ranked 35 of 108 countries. (See table below for 2009/2008 scores)


Probability of not surviving to age 40
(%)/ Ranking

Adult illiteracy rate
(%ages 15 and above)/ Ranking

People not using an improved water source
(%)/ Ranking

Children underweight for age
(% aged under 5)/ Ranking

Human Poverty Index
(HPI-1)/ Ranking

2009 Report (data from 2007) 10.7/ 89 18.0/ 96 16/ 88 10/ 64 14.6/ 63
2008 Report (data from 2004) 9.6/ 97 19.4/ 114 16/ 58 10/53 15.1/35

To cover gender-related imbalances not covered by the HDI, the UNDP added the Gender-related Development Index (GDI) in 1995.  The GDI measures the same indicators as the HDI, though it captures inequalities by adjusting downwards to reflect the status of women. The greater the difference between the HDI and the GDI numbers, the greater the inequalities between men and women.  The 2009 report indicates a 99.1% difference between the HDI and GDI, with 85 of the 155 countries of the GDI scoring better.

The UNDP also considers migration, and the economic benefits that result from the money remitted back home to help family members or the greater community. The 2009 Human Development Report noted that El Salvador has an emigration rate of 14.3% – 86.8% of Salvadoran immigrants are living in the U.S.

Over the past few months, the Funes Administration has begun enacting reforms to the health and educational systems that, if successful, will result in higher levels of development.  The country, however, continues to face significant economic development issues that have been exacerbated by the global economic crisis.  Funes and team has a lot of work ahead to lessen the dependence on remittances and create sustainable jobs at home.