At the first truce meeting, hot stares fed the tension, according to those present. About 200 soldiers stood nearby in case the sit-down dissolved into bloodshed and ignited the thousands of gang members that the leaders command from behind prison walls.
These prisoners, some branded head to toe with gang tattoos, now speak of a new day. They raise the prospect of working instead of stealing to make ends meet. They liken the truce, however fragile, to the peace accords that halted the 12-year civil war here in 1992.
“We have shown good will,” said Victor Antonio García, a Barrio 18 leader deported from Los Angeles. “But now the government has to get involved. We need, like, an affirmative action law here for gang members who quit and need jobs.”