Gangs in El Salvador have announced a new phase of their 2012 truce, committing to end attacks between rival groups and against the security forces, but it is unlikely that the current government will be willing to follow the path of its predecessor and offer concessions to the warring groups in exchange for a reduction in violence.
In a joint statement obtained by InSight Crime (see attached document), spokespeople for five of the country’s gangs — the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13), Barrio 18, Mao Mao, Maquina and Miranda Locos 13 — promised to end violence between rival gangs and attacks against security forces and their families. The gangs also vowed to prevent civilian casualties, stop forcibly recruiting young people, and to increase efforts to foster peace in the nation’s prisons.
“Over the last few days we have shared long and profound reflections at a national level […] and concluded that the situation of violence that burdens the country — of which we are all victims — cannot lead to positive results if we do not collaborate,” the statement reads. “If we are part of the problem, we can also be part of the solution.”
In the statement, the gangs also called on the government to support the truce, asking authorities to provide facilities for negotiators to mediate between the gangs. Although the joint statement was dated August 28, the gang spokespeople stated that the second phase of the truce went into effect on August 24.
InSight Crime Analysis
El Salvador’s two most powerful gangs — MS13 and Barrio 18 — first declared a truce in March 2012. The pact initially led to a significant drop in homicides, but murders began rising again in mid-2013 and by June 2014 had reached pre-truce levels.
Crucially, the previous pacts were not just truces between the gangs, but between the gangs and the government. The Mauricio Funes government initially claimed that it had no part in brokering the original truce, before admitting six months later that the deal had been a government initiative, and that gang leaders had been offered concessions in exchange for cutting violence, including the transfer of imprisoned leaders to lower-security facilities.
SEE ALSO: El Salvador’s Gang Truce
The current administration has signaled its lack of interest in entering into similar negotiations with the gangs. Since President Salvador Sanchez Ceren took office in June, authorities have been investigating the roles of the mediators of the original truce, and of rival mediators who launched their own initiative also backed by government figures.
The gang’s offer to end attacks on security forces comes off the back of a sustained campaign of attacks against the police, which could well be a ploy to bring the government back to the negotiating table. However, there have been few signs it could prove successful, and it remains to be seen whether the groups will follow through with their truce in the absence of a deal with the government.