Faced with forced displacement, denial, and disdain

To admit the existence of cases of forced internal displacement would mean a defeat for the Government. And the refusal to accept the problem worsens an already desperate situation for the displaced population. For this reason, the government’s position on internal displacement is not indolent, but perverse.

In the vacuum caused by the omission of the Government, there is a growing number of victims who, due to the very causes of forced internal displacement, mostly choose not to resort to support networks to alleviate the deterioration of their already precarious quality of life. Data published by Cristosal in its report on forced internal displacement due to violence in El Salvador in 2017, reveals that 37.9% of displaced people assisted in 2017 were between 0 and 17 years of age, who are usually members of a family group made up of three people.

A previous report presented by the Office for the Defense of Human Rights (PDDH) in 2017, indicated that at least 30% of displaced family groups were made up of a female head of the household and two minors. Even though both reports coincide in an apparent gender parity among the victims of this phenomenon, evidently, a good percentage of these displaced people are women who are the sole support of two minors. Therefore, they require assistance that should consider the care that must be provided to children and adolescents.

After being questioned during the presentation of Cristosal’s report on the lack of comprehensive care for the displaced population, the response of the Minister of Security and Justice, Mauricio Ramírez Landaverde, was to sarcastically affirm that the National Civil Police (PNC) cannot be expected to prepare milk bottles for the displaced people. The comment is clearly misogynistic. The Minister finds it demeaning that the honorable police force nurtures children who they cannot protect. If the PNC were to carry out such task, it would surely delegate it to the agents.

Ramírez Landaverde’s statement is cruel, reflecting a total disdain by the Ministry of Justice and Security for the victims and demonstrating he perceives as humiliating to think of the police force in care work. Not only is the Ministry unable to prevent the conditions that drive displacement, but once this has occurred, the Ministry is offended by the need to confront it.

Adults who have to abandon their wealth, their community, and their lifestyle due to threats from criminal groups already face a precarious economic situation and a battle to maintain a stable job, if they have one. If, in addition, they bear the responsibility of caring for minors, the economic and psychological impact that they must deal with is much greater.

If the Government is not even a reference for dealing criminally with the threats or homicides that force the population to flee, how can we expect that it at least understands the need to expand care for victims, thinking of them as people facing economic precariousness and living a traumatic experience, dropouts, loss of community, and heritage? How, in short, can we have conversations about comprehensive care for victims of forced internal displacement by violence when the very humanity of the displaced population is laughable to those who must ensure their integrity?

* Virginia Lemus, of the Academic Vice-rector