Is El Salvador’s New President Burying the Gang Truce?

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El Salvador’s new President Salvador Sanchez Ceren has declared he will not “make a truce with organized crime,” in comments that will dent the hopes of those looking to revive the 2012 gang truce.

On June 10, President Sanchez Ceren — who was sworn in on June 1 — said his government would “combat insecurity, combat extortion, work to prevent murders; we will not make a truce with organized crime,” reported EFE.

The president added that during his five-year term he would “make legitimate use of state force,” but only as a “last resort and not as the immediate solution to social conflict.” On previous occasions, he has also made it clear that the gang truce is not a priority for his administration.  

Justice and Security Minister Benito Lara has also confirmed that the gang truce would not be part of the new government’s security policy, although he added that the state would not interfere if the gangs reach an agreement on their own.

InSight Crime Analysis

In 2012, the government of President Mauricio Funes facilitated a truce between El Salvador’s most powerful gangs, in part by moving gang leaders into medium-security prisons and providing other benefits in exchange for lowering the homicide rate.

Over the past year, however, an uptick in murders has prompted both the Church and the national police to warn that the pact has fallen apart, and in May 2014 Funes stated the truce had failed.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador’s Gang Truce

Nevertheless, with a new government there have been new attempts to revive the pact, and the country’s gangs have appealed directly to the new government to maintain the truce, stating in an official communication that “the historic opportunity to recover peace that began on March 9, 2012 remains open.”

Although the new government’s comments may have disheartened supporters of the gang truce, the rhetoric may not correspond with actual policies. In spite of its role in facilitating the truce, the Funes administration maintained that it had not negotiated with the gangs, but simply “accompanied” the process, and tried to publicly distance itself from the pact. In spite of recent statements, it remains possible that Sanchez Ceren’s government will end up employing a similar tactic.    

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