Six months after El Salvador brokered a gang truce to tackle soaring homicide rates, officials are split over whether it has actually worked. Are murder rates going down or have tactics changed?
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, centralamericanpolitics.blogspot.com. The views expressed are the author's own.
Marcos Aleman of the Associated Press has a story making the rounds on the horrific killing of five schoolboys in Santa Tecla, El Salvador. The boys were found in an unmarked grave three weeks after having disappeared. Authorities speculate that the boys were killed after having rejected an "offer" to join the MS-13.
Six months after El Salvador brokered an historic truce between two rival gangs to curb the nation's daunting homicide rate, officials are split over whether the truce actually works. In March, MS-13 and its rival, Barrio 18, vowed to end the killings and the forced recruitments in exchange for better conditions for incarcerated gang leaders, who run their operations from behind bars. The government transferred 30 bosses of each gang from the maximum security Zacatecoluca prison, nicknamed "Zacatraz," to ordinary jails, where they would impart orders to their minions on the street, purportedly to stick with the truce.
Murders, disappearances, extortion, and robberies by gangs continue in El Salvador. There's no doubt about that. What's unfortunate is that at six months into the truce, people can't even agree if the numbers have improved or remained unchanged. While the government supports figures that show a decrease in each category, some outside analysts are unconvinced and say that the truce is simply a farce with gangs adopting new approaches, including making more frequent use of disappearances.