Re "L.A. Violence Crosses the Line," May 15: I have just finished reading the article about Mara Salvatrucha gang violence. It comes as no surprise that extremely violent criminals find California a virtual utopia where they can operate freely with minimal risk. This is the result of a weak and misguided criminal justice system that refuses to acknowledge the need for a prompt and dramatic expansion of capital punishment, an increase in victims' rights and a sharp curtailment of the rights of convicted violent criminals.
We are constantly witnessing heinous crimes committed by violent felons who have either been released after serving their time, or have been paroled. Hundreds of convicted murderers sit on death row while our bankrupt state squanders millions on their legal appeals, care and maintenance. There is only one solution for violent crime and that is prompt execution once a conviction has been reached.
To those who claim that capital punishment is not a deterrent, I say dead men don't commit crimes.
As often happens in newspapers, your May 15 edition captured an important historical juxtaposition for Salvadorans and Americans: the front-page article about the brutality of the Mara Salvatrucha street gang and the Calendar article about how Latin American filmmakers are revisiting the obscured history of our prosecuting the Cold War in the region. The Reagan administration policy of blindly supporting El Salvador's gruesomely brutal government legitimized the random murder of scores of individuals to intimidate its neighbors.
As evidence, you can look back at the Salvadoran government's complicity in the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the El Mozote massacre and the long-standing terrorism of the death squads. As examples of openly terrorist government policy, look back at the depopulation of the Guazapa volcano area and murder of the Jesuit priests at the University of Central America.
If we're afraid of Mara Salvatrucha, we should ask ourselves if our chickens are coming home to roost. We should especially ask this when our current executive administration suggested the "Salvador option" in dealing with the Iraq insurgency. Once again, history is scarier than any movie could hope to be.
The gang issue is difficult to tackle and solve. Various nationality-based gangs have existed for decades throughout the United States, and a special focus is now placed on Salvadorans, contributing to a negative stereotype that generalizes our young men and women as criminals.
This is not a fair portrayal of our community, which is hardworking, law-abiding and taxpaying. This article focuses on a negative stereotype that contributes to more discrimination. Better education opportunities and more jobs need to be provided for our Central American youths in Los Angeles, to help our young resist the temptation of joining gangs. Also, the governments of Mexico and Central America must find ways to resolve their poverty issues and not blame all social ills on gangs. This is an easy way to pass the buck.
I very much respect The Times, and I expect it also to cover and use its resources to print stories that accurately will reflect the great contributions of many successful Salvadorans. The next time we make the front page of The Times, I hope that it is a positive story regarding my community, which has suffered so much through the Salvadoran civil war and has heroically overcome many obstacles and is proud of its Salvadoran American roots.
Randy Jurado Ertll
Founder, Salvadoran American Political Action Committee