The Economist magazine has published a very straightforward assessment of the fight against violent crime titled simply El Salvador's crime wave. From the article:
El Salvador’s president, Elias Antonio Saca, has launched new initiatives aimed at getting the country’s gang-fuelled crime epidemic under control, and says that additional measures are in the pipeline. The hope is that these efforts will fare better than the “mano dura” (hard fist) policies of the past, which are generally believed to have backfired by driving the gangs underground and closer together, and to commit increasingly more violent acts.
The Salvadoran public has greeted Mr Saca’s reforms with scepticism, and with good reason. At first glance, some of the measures appear cosmetic and lacking in strategic coherence, and are far short of the dramatic measures recommended by the US government and other concerned parties. Still, it is too soon to tell whether this is a turning of the corner, or just another instance of the government giving false hope of safer times ahead....
The Saca government was slow to acknowledge that the previous policies promoted by his party, Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (Arena), in power since the end of El Salvador’s civil war in 1992, were not working and that a new approach was needed. Unfortunately, for much of 2006, San Salvador did not make much progress on a new course of action and instead was stuck in the blame game. The police blamed the judicial system for failing to successfully prosecute those arrested; the judiciary decried the overcrowding of the prisons; the leftist FMLN-opposition party blamed Arena, and so on. (more)
The article's bottom line is that ARENA has much at risk if it does not get the crime problem under control very soon.