Saturday, August 30, 2014

Gangs announce a new phase of the truce

Communications issued by El Salvador's largest gangs this weekend declare that the gangs have decided to relaunch the truce process which started in March 2012, but seemed to have largely fallen apart two years later.

From Reuters:

Leaders of El Salvador's major gangs on Friday said their members would no longer attack police and the military in a bid to revive a tattered gang truce and slash high rates of violence that have rocked the Central American nation. 
Kingpins of five Salvadoran gangs, including Barrio 18 and its rival Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), said the agreement was reached last Sunday to relaunch a March 2012 truce that cut homicide rates by 40 percent.
A report from al Jazeera described the communique from the gangs:
"We are all victims of the situation of violence that afflicts the country, and we can't see positive results if we do not promise our determined collaboration," said the leaders.   
It said gang members would also seek to avoid attacking "civilian victims," who are often executed to pressure family members into paying extortion money. 
The gangs have asked the government to "provide facilities" so that churches and civil authorities can facilitate dialogue to resolve conflicts between the groups. 
They said the terms of their original truce remain in effect, which include a cessation of hostilities between gang members and "action" against family members and trustees of the police and the prison system. 
The leaders also promised to suspend "forced recruitment" and stop "all forms of harassment" in schools and provide guarantees for the free movement of aid and medical groups in areas under the control of their members.
The reference to the government "providing facilities" so that churches and civil society can dialogue with the gangs would appear to be a reference to the initiative of the churches called "IPAZ" which I wrote about earlier this week.

There have not been any comments released from government leaders about this latest statement of intention from the gangs.  The outset of the original truce in March 2012 resulted in an immediate drop in the homicide rate in the country of more than 50%, although crimes such as extortion where the gangs make much of their income did not show a similar decline.  As a result, the Salvadoran public has been deeply suspicious of the so-called truce, and politicians at the national level in the country have distanced themselves from having anything to do with the truce.



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