As the year draws to a close, there are many perspectives on the gang truce process in El Salvador. El Faro recently had an article titled El Salvador Gang Truce: Signs of Life, which appeared in English on the InsightCrime site. From that article:
The truce still has measurable vital signs, despite the explicit animosity between the mediator Raul Mijango and the security minister, Ricardo Perdomo, and the fact that the government has turned its back on it. According to the original mediators, the minister is trying to substitute them for Father Antonio Rodriguez and Pastor Mauricio Navas. Moreover, due to the restrictions imposed by Perdomo, the gangs have adapted their systems to speed up the decision making process.
These days, there is no lack of mourners of the truce, people who consider it dead, and not in a dramatic way, but rather, due to simple abandonment and neglect, extinguished by the force of no longer declaring it. But it breathes. The basic vital signs are still there.The vital signs identified by InsightCrime are the fact that the murder rate has not returned to pre-truce levels, and the fact that top gang leaders who were transferred from high security to medium security prisons at the beginning of the truce are still there. Perhaps because of this, when the BBC had an interview with gang members, they urged that El Salvador support the continuation of the truce process which started in March 2012.
But even if the truce process has vital signs, it has few signs of life. The signs of optimism which marked the first year of the truce, are rarely seen these days.
Throughout this time, many have believed that the gangs entered the truce simply because it was bad for business. Rather than shooting at each other, the gangs are concentrating on a greater role in the drug trade. That is the view of Salvadoran police officials, according to InsightCrime.
The Funes administration asserts that it is pursuing a gang violence reduction initiative in parallel with the truce process. Ruben Zamora, El Salvador's ambassador to the US, in an opinion piece in the Christian Science Monitor wrote this week:
For more than two decades, El Salvador’s approach to public safety was merely to use tough police and army crackdowns, as if they were the only solution. In March 2012, the administration of President Mauricio Funes launched a new, three-track policy for combating gangs: 1) Crime control; 2) Social crime prevention and; 3) Rehabilitation of gang members. A truce between the gangs, brokered by a bishop of the Catholic Church and other members of civil society and supported by the Organization of American States, provided the opportunity for implementing the policy.
The flagship strategy in El Salvador, called “Municipalities free from Violence,” began integrating the different community actors at the micro level. If each of the actors decides to take part in the program, they will begin a process of discussing solutions with other sectors to alleviate marginalization and poverty in the communities. This process also takes into consideration the demands presented by the gang members, in exchange for their commitment to give up violence and extortion. The most common gang petitions are technical training, jobs, and micro loans for small businesses.
The Salvadoran government will fund the “Municipalities free from Violence” initiative in order to prevent social violence and cooperate in the recuperation of youth at risk.In 2014, the gang truce will enter its third year. Maintaining the truce is important, but it is not the goal. The goal must be the recovery of local communities from extortion by the gangs and the restoration of a sense of security to Salvadorans.