Nearly half of Salvadorans believe the “maras” benefit most from the country’s gang truce, according to an opinion poll, which could spell political trouble for the pact as presidential elections are looming.
In a public opinion survey of 2,119 Salvadorans, El Salvador’s Universidad Tecnologica found that 47 percent of respondents believed the Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) street gangs benefitted most from the truce brokered between the two groups in March 2012. Just 16 percent said the truce most benefitted the general population and 13.3 percent believed it favored the government.
A majority — 68.1 percent — also said the truce had “political ends,” and 50 percent believed it had not produced any results.
So far in August, 208 homicides have been committed in El Salvador, representing a 45 percent increase compared with the same period in 2012, reported La Prensa Grafica.
InSight Crime Analysis
The fact that the majority of survey respondents see the truce as a failure is unsurprising, considering the spike in homicides in recent months and the high levels of extortion that continue to plague the country.
Weapons handed in by the maras since the implementation of the truce have been found not to function, raising questions about the supposed good will of the gangs, and a reported rise in disappearances has drawn into question the official figures showing homocides dropped by over 40 percent drop in 2012.
Despite initially denying it, it is now clear the government has played a significant role in brokering the truce, which has laid the process open to manipulation for political ends. Political opponents have used signs the truce is wobbling as an excuse to attack the government, saying it has allowed the gangs to use it to gain strength and calling peace zones implemented in the second phase of the truce “pandillalandia” (gangland).
As InSight Crime has reported, the looming 2014 presidential elections have further politicized the issue and crucial players have backed out of the process for fear of putting off voters. If opinion polls continue to suggest the general public do not support the truce, and it begins to look like backing the process could lose a candidate votes, then it is likely politicians on both sides will begin to come down even more firmly against it.