Magazine article New Internationalist

Peaceful Measures: Healing the Wounds in Nicaragua and El Salvador

Magazine article New Internationalist

Peaceful Measures: Healing the Wounds in Nicaragua and El Salvador

Article excerpt

THE emotional wounds of conflict are often more enduring and harder to heal than the physical ones. Two very different women in Central America have the peculiar brand of optimism needed to make long - term plans for recovery and reconciliation in a region where brutal conflict has been the norm for a generation.

Marta Adriana Peralta promotes mental health in northern Nicaragua, where human rights have been 'suspended' in conditions of continuing insecurity. This was one of the worst - affected regions during the years of conflict between the Sandinista government and the US - sponsored 'Contra' guerilla opposition. Here, she says, 'firearms are the only things many people possess, the only currency with which to buy the basic necessities of life'. Armed rivalries run through families, between brothers and sisters, parents and children, leaving physical injury, bereavement and trauma on both sides. Politics and families alike have become 'polarized'.

Marta works with war orphans and repatriated 'Contra' soldiers. Boys who were teenagers during the conflict have reached their mid - twenties with no experience of peace and few of the skills to benefit from it. Her job, she says, is to equip them for reconstruction: 'we're all fighting against the same things now -- hunger, unemployment, violence'. …

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