Announcing the second phase of El Salvador's gang truce

The negotiators of El Salvador’s gang truce, which has reduced murders by two-thirds in the last eight months, have proposed a second phase which would aim to end all gang crimes, including extortion, in designated “zones of peace.”

On November 22, negotiators Bishop Fabio Colindres and ex-congressman Raul Mijango announced their proposal for the next phase of the gang truce (read the full text of their proposal here).

They said that despite the drop in murders, Salvadorans still suffered from extortion and from the general atmosphere of insecurity. To address this, the negotiators suggested naming certain municipalities as “special zones of peace,” where gangs would make a pact of non-aggression with each other, and agree to stop all extortion, kidnapping, theft, and murder.

In these areas, gang members would hand in their weapons, and the police would cease large scale or night-time operations, while the government would put into place schemes to give work to gang members who leave crime behind.

The negotiators also asked the government to prioritize mental health services in these peace zones. They said that they had selected 10 municipalities where the scheme would begin, before being rolled out throughout the country, reported El Mundo.

InSight Crime Analysis

The plan to cut extortion and other crimes that affect the population in El Salvador is the logical next step of the truce between the country’s main gangs, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18, which was brokered in March. While murders have been slashed by two-thirds, reports vary on whether extortion has decreased or has even gone up since then. Extortion is thought to be the primary source of income for these gangs, meaning that to make these “peace zones” work would likely require serious concessions from the government in return.

The announcement was made at a press conference to present the report on the first year in office of Security and Justice Minister David Munguia Payes, who was the driving force behind the truce. He promised at the beginning of his term that he would reduce homicides by 30 percent in his first year, and has delivered a reduction of double that amount, putting him in a good position if he wishes to run for the presidency or vice presidency in the 2014 elections.

Munguia greeted the proposal by saying that he viewed it with optimism and that the government would help “facilitate” the measures, while stressing that it does not negotiate with gangs.