Leaders of El Salvador’s street gangs have issued a joint statement declaring their desire to keep moving forward with the country’s gang truce even as homicides continue to rise in the country for the fourth consecutive month.
Following a visit by the Organization of American States (OAS) to review the state of El Salvador’s gang truce, several of the country’s gangs — including the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and the Barrio 18 — released a statement announcing their “unbreakable” desire to continue the “peace process.”
The gangs also stated that a twelfth “peace zone” would be inaugurated soon and that they would consider turning over more arms in coming months.
At the same time, the gangs “rejected” actions taken by the authorities in the country’s prisons saying they were intended to “damage the peace process.”
The gang leaders announced they would vote in the upcoming February 2014 elections, calling on their fellow gang members to do the same. The statement ended by saying perceptions the truce is failing are “false” and promising facilitators of the process and international supporters that “we will not let you down.”
Meanwhile, September saw 54 more murders compared with the same period in 2012, an upward trend that has now continued since June. Police have blamed the spike in murders on gang members failing to respect the truce.
InSight Crime Analysis
Although El Salvador’s murder rate continues to be significantly lower than before the agreement between the gangs was reached in March 2012, there have been signs, such as the rising murder rate and recent violence in the “peace zones,” that the truce is reaching a breaking point. Additionally, support for the truce has been wavering both among political leaders, who have been wary of backing the agreement ahead of coming elections, and the public, who according to a recent survey believe the truce most benefits the gangs.
With the future of the truce in jeopardy, the gang’s statement could be taken as a desire to reassure the doubters by reasserting their commitment to the process at a sensitive moment.
However, it could also be related to recent controversies over changes in the prisons where many leaders are incarcerated, which government critics said were attempts to undermine the truce. Improvements in the conditions of imprisoned gang leaders are widely considered to have been a key incentive used to bring leaders to the negotiating table, and any attempts to back away from that approach were always likely to provoke a response from the gangs.