Is El Salvador’s Revamped Truce Plan a Political Stunt?

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El Salvador’s security minister has proposed revitalizing the country’s “pacification process,” drawing input from the business sector and civil society, a move which could halt the unraveling of the gang truce, but which may be little more than a political stunt ahead of the new president’s inauguration.

According to La Prensa Grafica, Ricardo Perdomo’s proposed “National Pacification Plan” seeks a process of dialogue involving representatives from the economic, political, civil, religious and cultural sectors, as well as the leaders of the street gangs of Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18.

Perdomo called on “gang leaders who still believe in the peace process to stop killing and extorting the population,” and said the first meetings regarding the new process would begin during the week commencing April 21.

SEE MORE: El Salvador’s Gang Truce: Positives and Negatives

The move comes in the wake of a more than 44 percent increase in homicides in the first three months of 2014, compared to the same period in 2013, as well as widespread public criticism of the truce during the recent elections. Murders rose another 39 percent during Holy Week, which has just finished.

Insight Crime Analysis

Since stepping into his role in mid-2013, Perdomo has sent mixed messages out over the gang truce, which came into effect in March 2012 under outgoing President Mauricio Funes, and was credited with a massive drop in homicides during its first year.

In the run up to the election in March — won by Salvador Sanchez Ceren of the same left-leaning FMLN party as Funes — Perdomo actively criticized the initiative, which he had previously said was facilitating the growth and expansion of gangs and their ties to the drug trade.

But now Perdomo is apparently getting behind the initiative — albeit a modified version — likely intended to garner public support ahead of Sanchez Ceren taking office in June. 

Sanchez Ceren criticized the truce during his campaign, saying his party was never behind the initiative; a position likely influenced by the public opinion polls coming out at the time. One of the most common criticisms leveled at the truce by the public was the continued prevalence of non-deadly crimes such as extortion, as well as the lack of input from large sectors of society. In the light of these gripes, Perdomo’s proposal appears to essentially advocate hitting the rewind button so a more inclusive process, with stricter rules, can be established.  

However, Sanchez Ceren’s stance on the initiative is still unclear, and with violence once again rising, the panorama is a complex one.  The struggling truce is unlikely to move forward without a clear and unequivocal mandate from the new president. 

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