El Salvador and the search for the dissapeared

Today I read an article which described the profession of Israel Ticas, an engineer who self taught himself forensics and now works as the head criminologist for a department of the El Salvadorean government. Ticas dedicates his life to uncovering clandestine graves, working to find bodies of those who have disappeared and bring justice to them and their murderers. The article described Ticas’ life and work and provided numerous examples of situations he has been in, including a situation were he was held at gunpoint by gang members. The article points out that in the last 12 years, Tica has “opened about 90 common graves with more than 700 bodies.” Many people come to Tica asking him to help them find their missing loved ones. The article also points out that Tica is scared becaused everyone knows where he lives. However, Tica has said that many gang members come up to him and congratulate him, asking him to find their bodies when they die and bring them to their families.

This article is extremely interesting as it highlights numerous aspects of the state of gang violence in El Salvador and gives hints and clues as to the history of this country. The article mentioned the history of the 2012 gang truce and how “Ticas’s boss, Attorney General Luis Martinez, saw the truce as government collusion with criminals.” The article claims that critics of the 2012 truce argue that the dead “simply were dumped in clandestine graves by the country’s tens of thousands of gang members.” Apparently, the number of missing people in El Salvador each year ranges from 600 to 2,000. This bit of statistics and history of El Salvador illustrates the immense amounts of subtle violence that increased after the 2012 and has since continued to haunt the nation. Another extremely interesting fact about this article is that the gang members have congratulated and encouraged Ticas, asking him to find thier dead bodies “when they die.” The language used, and the requests by gang members highlights the fact that there is a dominant culture of violence in El Salvador and that gang members expect to die in a cruel and unpublicized manner. This fact in turn further reveals the nature of subtle violence in the area and the extensive amounts of gang activity. A final note on the article, Ticas claims that he wants justice for all the dead he finds, even if they are gang members. Ticas claims that all killers are devils. This implies that perhaps gangs aren’t the only ones committing clandestine murders and that possibly the state, or other civilian actors, are utilizing these methods as well.

The link to the article can be found here:



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