A new video surfaced on May 31 claiming that “gangs and organized crime” in El Salvador have closed ranks and are demanding that the state abandon its aggressive anti-gang strategy. The unidentified makers of the video say they are prepared for “war” if authorities refuse to engage in dialogue.
The video released at the end of May is at least the second video of alleged gang threats to emerge in recent weeks, as the country reels from historic levels of violence. May reportedly marked the deadliest month in El Salvador in 20 years. On June 1, the Attorney General’s Office processed the most murders in a single day since the end of the country’s civil war, according to La Prensa Grafica.
In the video, masked men holding weapons stand behind a representative reading from a prepared statement. The men in the video claim to be speaking on behalf of “united gangs and organized crime.” The group’s statement specifically denounces aggressive anti-gang policing tactics, blaming the government for the recent escalation of violence. The spokesperson in the video then states that a united front of gangs is prepared to engage in dialogue, but is also fully prepared to engage in “war” if authorities refuse.
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Previous written statements purportedly released by representatives of the MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs have made similar calls for a peace process. However, releasing videos as a public relations move is by and large uncharacteristic of how El Salvador’s gangs operate (unlike, say, in Mexico). The video’s directly confrontational tone is also a new development. In past statements, gang representatives have relied on more conciliatory and diplomatic rhetoric, even offering a cessation of violence in exchange for talks.
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Salvadoran authorities have said that the videos are fake, and are produced by “trolls” looking to spread fear via social media. While the authenticity of these videos — and the motive behind producing them — is still uncertain and difficult to verify, it is clear that whoever is uploading them wants to widely disseminate their angry message about the more aggressive parts of the government’s anti-gang strategy.