A second phase of the gang truce in El Salvador got official endorsement on Friday. At a press conference, mayors of four cities announced their participation in this process, which will ultimately consist of 18 cities where the gangs will lower their levels of activity and programs working at re-inserting gang members into society and other prevention efforts will be introduced.
Mayors from the FMLN and ARNEA joined together in the initiative "Cities From From Violence," known popularly as "sanctuary cities." Santa Tecla, Ilopango, Sonsonate and Quezaltepeque announced their participation in the process, while the gangs announced that soon there would be a second turn over of weapons, collected, according to the OAS (Organization of American States) in the 18 localities that are part of the project of municipal peace-making.As El Faro notes, this announcement is important for a few other reasons.
First, the endorsement of the mayors represents the first time that institutions of the Salvadoran government have indicated that they will be participants in the truce process. Up to this point, the national government of Mauricio Funes and the National Civilian Police still have maintained a distance from the process and maintaining publicly that they do not negotiate with gang members. The mayors, speaking of the need to improve the safety of the citizens in their municipalities, indicated they could not remain on the sidelines.
Second, this process is bi-partisan. The four cities have two ARENA and two FMLN mayors. Both parties are embracing the gang truce as it moves into this next phase. The endorsement of the two major parties could mean that the ongoing progress of the truce will not be a political football in the 2014 presidential campaign. According to El Faro, mediator Raul Mijango has indicated that the total group of 18 "cities free from violence" will include 8 governed by ARENA, 8 governed by the FMLN, and two governed by coalitions of other parties.
The remaining cities will be announced in coming months. The truce is now in its tenth month and the reduction in the levels of homicides in the country continues.