Youths in one of El Salvador's designated peace zones

A spate of apparent revenge killings carried out by gangs in El Salvador has raised concerns about the sustainability of the country's gang truce, as the government announces plans to expand violence-free "peace zones."

According to the newspaper El Nacional, four people died and three were injured in a gunfight between rival gangs on February 1, in San Miguel, El Salvador's third-largest city. Justice and Security Minister David Munguia Payes says there has been "a chain of revenge" attacks carried out despite the truce between the country's two main gangs, Barrio 18 and MS-13.

The minister said recent killings had seen the murder rate creep up to an average of 6.6 a day since the start of this year, up from 5.3 at the end of 2012. However, the rate still remains far below the average of 14 murders a day registered before the truce.

Three recent murders took place in the municipality of Ilopango -- one of the areas designated as a "peace zone," where the gangs have pledged to end criminal activities. 

In a video published by La Presna Grafica, Munguia denied the Ilopango killings undermined the truce and the peace zones, claiming that one murder was carried out by a gang not involved in the truce, while another was killed elsewhere and the body dumped in the area. 

"The violence-free municipalities are going to have incidents, which we are going to evaluate in the medium and long term," he said.

He also announced plans to extend the number of peace zones to 60. The first four peace zones were inaugurated in January, with 14 more currently scheduled.

 

InSight Crime Analysis

Comparatively minor outbreaks of violence have continued since the truce was first announced in March 2012, but this has not yet undermined support for what could be a fragile initiative. The secretive nature of the process, as well as the lack of clarity about what is next, is making many uneasy.

The peace zone plan, for example, is ambitious, relying on the full support of all gang members and other sectors of society and government to succeed. The rise in homicides and ongoing sporadic violence suggest this may not have been fully secured and that further negotiations could spark some ugly battles over what are scarce resources.

The role of the security services is also unclear. While it has been announced the military will withdraw from the zones, plans to stop night patrols by police remain unconfirmed. A lack of clear guidelines for security forces in the event of violence could become problematic and undermine the effectiveness of the peace zones.

 

 

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala is Central America’s most populous country and its largest economy. But an intransigent elite, an ambitious military and a weak state has opened the way for organized crime to flourish, especially since the return of democracy.

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

On the morning of April 5, 1988, Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros left his palatial Tegucigalpa estate for a jog. Matta Ballesteros was wanted for murder, drug trafficking and other crimes in several countries, but in Honduras he felt safe. He regularly hosted parties for high-level officials at...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Like any arm of the justice system, the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) had its battles with elites who used their charm and their muscle to try to influence what and who the celebrated commission...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Rodrigo Tovar Pupo never imagined it would come to this: dressed in an orange jumpsuit in a Washington DC courtroom and standing in front of a United States federal judge, the grandson of a wealthy Colombian cattle rancher and nephew to a governor was facing a possible...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

In the northwest corner of Guatemala, a little known criminal organization known as the "Huistas" dominates the underworld, in large part due its ties with businessmen, law enforcement officials and politicians.

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

As it tends to happen in Honduras, the news began as a well-heeled rumor: Javier Rivera Maradiaga, the oldest of the three Rivera Maradiaga brothers still alive and leader of the feared and powerful Honduran drug trafficking group known as the Cachiros, had handed himself in to...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

By the end of 1993, Pablo Escobar was cornered. The cocaine king -- known as "El Patrón" -- was running out of money and options. His top assassins were either dead or had turned themselves in. Almost all of the senior members of the Medellín Cartel were...

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

This project defines organized crime as: a structured group of people that associate on a regular and prolonged basis to benefit from illicit activities and illegal markets. This group can be local, national or transnational in nature, and its existence is maintained using violence and threats; corruption...

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Organized crime is not an abstract concept for me. I grew up in Oak Park, a leafy suburb of Chicago with a population of about 60,000. In general, it was a very low crime city, which is perhaps why many mobsters made their homes there, among them...