Salvadoran officials have called for an investigation into truce mediator Raul Mijango, after he made comments suggesting that a recent spike in homicides is related to gang dissatisfaction and would drop again if certain conditions are met.
On July 4, Mijango said that he believed homicide levels would drop within 72 hours, and indicated that certain government measures, including restrictions put on imprisoned gang members under the country’s new Security Minister Ricardo Perdomo, may be linked to the spate of killings. According to Mijango, these restriction led to the deaths of seven prisoners in three weeks, reported La Prensa Grafica.
The comments provoked several legislators to announce their intention to demand prosecutors launch an investigation into Mijango’s activities. One official commented that Mijango appeared to possess information about the situation that was unavailable to anyone else. Congressman Guillermo Gallegos of the GANA party said, “A person who has knowledge, control, and knows how the gangs act, and says that in 72 hours homicides may drop is also in some way an accomplice.” Mijango refuted the claims, saying the homicides were not part of a plan to blackmail the government.
After the truce came into force in March 2012, it led to a 41 percent drop in the country’s homicide rate. However, police reported a renewed rise in the homicide rate for May and June 2013, and 56 homicides occurred in the first three days of July.
InSight Crime Analysis
Together with Bishop Fabio Colindres of the Catholic Church, Mijango played a key role in mediating the truce between the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 street gangs, a central component of which was the improvement of prison conditions for gang leaders in exchange for decreased violence. If authorities were to launch an investigation into Mijango and his work as a mediator, this could severely undermine the peace process.
More worryingly, if, as Mijango suggests, the recent spate of homicides is not random but responsive, this could be taken as a sign that the gangs are willing to use the murder rate as a tool to gain leverage — if their demands are met, the murder rate stays down; if they are not, it quickly rises. If this is the case, then it sets a dangerous precedent as it essentially allows the gangs to extract concessions from the government through the threat of a return to violence.