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Honduran Gangs May Replicate El Salvador Truce

Gang truce negotiator Bishop Romulo Emiliani Gang truce negotiator Bishop Romulo Emiliani

The MS-13 and Barrio 18 street gangs in Honduras may be set to declare their own version of the El Salvador gang truce, although they admit it is unlikely to have the same impact in reducing the country's murder rate.

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According to the Bishop of San Pedro Sula, Romulo Emiliani, on May 28th gang leaders will make a declaration of peace and announce their intention to seek "reconciliation" with the Honduran government and society.

However, Emiliani added the gang leaders have already warned that a truce would not necessarily lead to the sort of drop in murder rate witnessed in El Salvador -- where the truce has led to 45 percent less murders. "They say that in Honduras there are a lot of murders that are not caused by them," he said.

In an interview with Canal 3, one incarcerated Barrio 18 leader confirmed the gangs are ready to negotiate and called on President Porfirio Lobo to name a commission to facilitate talks.

The Ambassador for Security Affairs of the Organization of American States (OAS), Adam Blackwell, said dialogue with the gangs has been going on for eight months, and began after he and Emiliani visited leaders in prison, reported the AP.

InSight Crime Analysis

While the El Salvador gang truce has proven controversial, and doubts remain over its sustainability and whether it has truly been as successful as is claimed, there can be no doubt it has led to a dramatic drop in the murder rate.

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world and any attempt to replicate this success and regain control over the spiraling violence of recent years should be welcomed.

However, even if negotiations are successful, a truce is unlikely to match the results seen in El Salvador. The street gangs -- known as "maras" -- are less centralized in Honduras and it will be much more difficult for the leadership to assert their control over local factions.

It is also possible, as Emiliani points out, that the Honduran maras are not responsible for such a high percentage of murders as their Salvadoran counterparts, as while the gangs undoubtedly play a major part in driving violence, they are far from the only criminal actors in Honduras.

There is also the role of the security forces to consider. Corrupt factions of the police and military are sometimes behind some of the criminal violence, and the police have been accused of running death squads targeting gang members, which will make it difficult for the gangs and police to build trust and keep the peace.

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