Today I listened to a woman I know here, a friend, tell me about being extorted at gunpoint. Three men showed up at her family home a few days before Christmas, brandished their guns, and said they would kill the family unless they got $5000. She and her husband talked them down to $3000, and even that is way, way beyond this family's means. But imagine negotiating for your life at gunpoint.
They were told that their kids would be killed if the police were called. They didn't call the police. They went to other family members to borrow the money, and managed to put together $2000 which they gave to their extortionists a few days after Christmas. Now they are trying to scrape together the last $1000, which is "due" at the end of this month. They haven't told their neighbors, only their family. Her only trust right now is in her family.
My friend has been living in fear for a month, hardly sleeping, crying, afraid to leave the home. She has some chronic illnesses that have been kicked up by the stress. And she is one of the strong Salvadoran women for whom I have such admiration, someone who's been a pillar of her community and a help to many others.
This is the intolerable situation which too many good people in El Salvador and Central America face daily. Every time money is given, it strengthens the gangs, of course. But if money isn't given? Well, the murders take place daily and are almost never solved.
May God have mercy on the poor who suffer so much here. And may the people and the government find a just way to work against such grinding and relentless evil.