El Salvador’s gangs have reportedly enforced a transportation strike, paralyzing capital city San Salvador as they attempt to push the government into a new round of truce negotiations.
On July 27, gangs in El Salvador ordered bus drivers to go on strike, killing six transportation workers and burning two buses that refused to comply, reported Reuters.
In response to gang threats, buses stopped offering service on at least 37 routes, affecting San Salvador and surrounding areas. El Salvador’s Vice Ministry of Transport (VMT) estimated around 1,000 busses had stopped running.
The strike has affected the daily commute of thousands of Salvadorans, with people renting cars, traveling in the back of pickup trucks, or walking long distances to arrive at their destinations.
For those transportation workers willing to break the strike, El Salvador’s National Police (PNC) has promised “permanent protection,” and mobilized officers to provide security at bus terminals, bus stops, and along bus routes.
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The MS13 and Barrio 18 in El Salvador have been calling for the government to once again engage in dialogue with their leaders, saying violence will continue to rise until this happens. So far, however, the government has adamantly refused to do so. Instead, authorities have adopted a confrontational approach towards the gangs in the face of rising violence.
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Indeed, the gangs’ ordering of the transportation strike is likely a response to recent moves by the government to limit imprisoned gang members’ contact with the outside world. It also serves as a demonstration of the gangs’ strength, and their ability to significantly disrupt day-to-day civilian life. This puts additional public pressure on the government to take action against rising insecurity.
The questions remains whether El Salvador’s security situation will continue to worsen before it starts improving, or whether the government will eventually be forced to engange in dialogue with the gangs once again. This is something the state has been reluctant to do (or at least publicly acknowledge), for fear of appearing weak and granting the gangs semi-legitimate status as political actors.
Such a scenario, however, is not without precedent. Unconfirmed reports have recently emerged from Brazil, alleging that the government of São Paulo negotiated with leaders of the First Capital Command (PCC) gang in 2006, in order to end an outbreak of violence.