Threats and rumors of threats by gangs led the majority of the buses in El Salvador to stay off the streets today. From the Latin American Herald Tribune:
Between 40 percent and 60 percent of El Salvador’s bus routes are not operating on Tuesday due to fear of attacks on the vehicles or the transportation workers by gangs, the leader of the Fecoatrans transit company association told Efe.
“This is due to the threats made ... by criminal bands that dedicate themselves to extortion. They weren’t just rumors, they were pamphlets, telephone calls,” Catalino Miranda said.
Miranda alluded to pamphlets and phone calls ordering owners and operators to keep their buses off the streets to prevent the drivers from being murdered or the vehicles from being burned.
“To that, one must add (the fact) that the country is paralyzed in some zones,” Miranda said.
He said that “many businessmen have made the decision to protect their units” fearing a repeat of what happened in June, when 16 people lost their lives as assailants set a bus on fire with the passengers still aboard.
Although the motivation behind the threats is not known, Miranda did not rule out that they could be linked to the recent approval in Congress of a bill making gang membership a criminal offense punishable by 10 years in prison.
Also a possible factor in the surge in threats could be the government’s decision to use the army to reinforce security at prisons holding gang members.
Hundreds of Salvadorans had to walk to work starting early Tuesday morning because the buses were not running to San Salvador from the towns of Apopa, Soyapango, Cojutepeque, Olocuilta and San Miguel.
People throughout the country had to deal with the absence of the buses. Businesses closed early. Informal vendors were not at their stalls. Public security officials called for the country and the transport sector not to be intimidated. Police and military were deployed to bus stops.