El Salvador Gangs ‘At War’ as Truce Hits the Rocks

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The El Salvador Security and Justice Minister has said the country’s gangs are once again at war as rising murder rates suggest the truce between the gangs is all but dead.

Speaking at a press conference to announce cross-party political support for measures to reinforce the security forces, Ricardo Perdomo said, “They (the gangs) are at war, in a process of vengeance and territorial control.”

The minister also distanced the government from the deal agreed between the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18 gangs in March 2012, saying “I have never mentioned a truce. [The gangs] decide the details of the truce, only they know how things are. We, the authorities, do not get involved in this; we restrict ourselves to enforcing the law and stopping violence.”

Perdomo’s comments followed a statement from gang leaders read by truce mediator Raul Mijango the day before, in which they denied being behind the recent rise in homicides.

The gangs also denied Perdomo’s previous statement that police intelligence indicated they were planning an increase in murders for December to pressure the government, and criticized what they consider to be the authorities return to a hardline “mano dura” (iron fist) approach to security.

InSight Crime Analysis

The war of words between the gangs and the authorities comes on the back of news that murder rates continue to rise and are rapidly approaching the levels seen before the gang truce.

Between November 1 and 17, there were 176 murders, an average of close to 10.4 a day, reported El Mundo. In contrast, over the same period of 2012, when the truce was stilling receiving widespread plaudits for drastically cutting the country’s murder rate, there were 91 murders, at an average of nearly 5.4 a day.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador Gang Truce: Positives and Negatives

The latest figures fit a pattern seen for some months, with murders steadily approaching the pre-truce average of around 12 murders a day.

Against the backdrop of growing violence, support for the truce seems to be slipping away. Perdomo in particular has been a fierce critic of the agreement since he replaced David Munguia, who played an instrumental role in brokering the truce, as security minister in May 2013.

With elections now approaching, supporting the truce is increasingly looking like a politically toxic policy, meaning even if the gangs are genuine in their stated desire to continue with the agreement, they will likely not be supported in the initiative.

With little popular support to fall back on, this leaves El Salvador’s bold anti-violence experiment all but finished.

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