El Salvador Promises More Social Aid for Gang Truce

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As part of a new phase in El Salvador’s gang truce, the president pledged additional funds for the reintegration of gang members into mainstream society, something which has been sorely lacking from the truce so far.

President Mauricio Funes said $18 million would be spent creating cooperatives in the country’s peace zones — areas where gang members have pledged to cease all criminal activity — which would provide social reinsertion opportunities.

Another $4.3 million will be invested in giving gang members access to education, plus $9.3 million to provide health care. A final $798,000 will be spent on violence prevention measures.

“The truce has not failed,” said President Funes, responding to recent comments from the Catholic Church and politicians that the pact negotiated between the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the Barrio 18 had not brought about the improvements promised.

InSight Crime Analysis

News of investment in social reinsertion programs is very welcome, as providing alternative, legal income sources for gang members is crucial to the truce’s longterm sustainability. Members of both gangs rely on extortion to make a living for themselves and their families, and the government has so far failed to make good on promises to provide employment opportunities. While murder rates have seen a dramatic drop since the truce began, extortion has risen, while gang members have complained alternatives are lacking. Whether $18 million will be enough to provide decent options for the 64,000 gang members thought to operate in El Salvador (according to police data) is questionable, but it is nonetheless a good start. 

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