Perspectives on the Gang Truce: Part one
In recent years security and poverty comprise the two most pressing issues Salvadorans typically express. News about El Salvador often focuses on levels of violence among the highest per capita in the world. However, in March 2012 a truce began between El Salvador´s main gangs, the MS 13 and 18th Street gangs. The homicide rate in El Salvador dropped from an average of 14 a day to 5, and has continued at this level for just over six months now. At the end of September, the Passionist Social Service (SSPAS) and the Foundation for the Study and Application of the Law (FESPAD), both of which have run and supported youth violence prevention and rehabilitation initiatives for years, hosted a forum on the opportunities and challenges the truce provides for creating a sustainable peace process. Over the next two weeks, SHARE will feature a multi-part series on the truce and various perspectives presented and the forum and beyond. This first installment offers a summary of the first six months of the truce.
In March 2012, digital newspaper El Faro broke news of a truce between El Salvador´s main gangs, the MS 13 and 18th Street gangs, and that the director of prisons had moved thirty high level gang leaders from maximum security prison where they received no visitors and spent only three hours a week in sunlight, to lower security prisons with visiting privileges. Shortly thereafter, ex-FMLN legislator Raúl Mijango and Monseñor Fabio Colindres emerged in the news as lead negotiators in the truce.
While initially government officials including Minister of Justice and Security David Munguía Payés denied any involvement in or relation to the gang truce, in June Munguía Payés accepted the truce as a piece in his plans to address security problems in El Salvador. In early September, in an interview with the Faro, Munguía Payés and Mijango presented the negotiations with the gangs as carefully planned within the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, with the approval of president Funes. The following week, President Funes dismissed this angle on the truce, re-asserting his previous explanation that the negotiations evolved from an initiative of the Catholic Church that the government has simply helped facilitate. Read More »