A street scene in La Union, El Salvador

El Salvador authorities admit the nationwide gang truce is not working in certain parts of the country, with 31 murders registered in one municipality since the beginning of the year.

Gang violence, cut dramatically in most of El Salvador since the country's biggest street gangs committed to a peace deal in March 2012, is still going strong in La Union, a town near the Honduran border in a department with the same name. In a statement, Security and Justice Minister David Munguia Payes implied that gangs the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 were having difficulty in controlling sub-factions, known as "clicas," in the region, who are not following the truce.

There have also been reports of increased extortion in La Union, while buses transporting employees of private companies have now stopped entering certain neighborhoods because of threats issued to drivers.

According to Munguia Payes, La Union's police chief recently said that the truce was not in operation in the area, while the mayor acknowledged there had been many murders despite the peace deal.

InSight Crime Analysis

The security issues in La Union raise questions about the ability of the MS-13 and Barrio 18 to continue enforcing the truce on a nationwide scale. The MS-13 and Barrio 18 leadership obviously had the authority to force many "clicas" to fall in line, following the negotiation of the truce in March 2012 -- as evidenced by the significant drop in murders that followed. However, as pointed out in a recent report by the International Assessment and Strategy Center (IASC), there are some indications of growing tensions between the Maras' top leadership and the clicas, a relationship that could deteriorate further if the clicas no longer believe the truce is in their best interests.

There could be other explanations for why the truce is apparently not being respected in La Union. The area is home to another major drug trafficking organization, the Perrones, which has been growing in strength in recent years. The group has traditionally controlled the border provinces of La Union and San Miguel, moving cocaine shipments into Honduras. There have been some reports of the MS-13 working in the international drug trade in this region, which could give them special incentive to ignore the mandates of the truce, which ask the clicas to cease all illicit activities. The recent murders in La Union could also be indicative of a turf war between the MS-13 and the Perrones, who have little obligation to respect each others' territory.