HomeNewsBriefEl Salvador Gangs Expand Truce to School Zones
BRIEF

El Salvador Gangs Expand Truce to School Zones

BARRIO 18 / 3 MAY 2012 BY CHRISTOPHER LOOFT EN

In a joint communique, El Salvador's two largest gangs have promised to extend their cease-fire to school zones, as well as bring an end to forced recruitment, a positive development allegedly brokered by the same bishop credited with bringing about an earlier drop in homicides.

The communique was presented in the Quezaltepeque prison, also known as La Libertad, in the presence of some two dozen members of the media. Also in attendance were Bishop Fabio Colindres and ex-congressman Raul Mijango, supposed architects of the March 2012 truce that seems to have prompted a significant drop in the country's homicide rates.

The announcement, apparently endorsed by the leadership of both the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18, reads:

"We have considered making a second gesture of good faith, which consists of declaring all scholarly centers of the country, public and private, as zones of peace; that is to say, they are no longer to be considered disputed territories, which will permit the students and teachers to carry on with their educational activities with all normality, and the families of the students will be liberated of all worry when they send their children to school... We also declare that henceforth, all involuntary recruitment of adults and children into our ranks will cease."

The communique was read aloud by Victor Antonio Garcia Ceron, top spokesman for the so-called Revolutionary, or "R," faction of Barrio 18 and one of the gang leaders transferred by the government into a prison with more lax security earlier this year.

Gang member Ludwing Alexander Rivera said the widespread practice of extortion would continue until conditions emerged in which gang members and their families were able to make up for the loss in revenue that would result from the cessation of the practice, as El Faro reports.

InSight Crime Analysis

This is the latest piece of good news out of El Salvador, which has registered a dramatic 60 percent drop in homicides since the early March 2012 truce apparently negotiated by Bishop Fabio Colindres. If the gangs truly enforce the ceasefire in El Salvador's school districts, this could help violence levels drop even further. El Faro notes that some students are mistakenly targeted as rival gang members due to wearing the uniforms of schools "owned" by other gangs. The expansion of the truce also heads off a controversial security measure by the government: the proposed militarization of the country's schools.

If the MS-13 and Barrio 18 are actually sincere about -- and capable of -- enforcing this latest order, the expanded gang truce will likely reinforce the security gains of the past two months. But even as the government has shown signs of adopting a more community-oriented security strategy, including a proposed a $20 million jobs program aimed at rehabilitating gang members, the government still appears willing to expands its law enforcement capabilities, preparing to open a US-funded wiretap center and deploying an elite anti-gang police unit.

Given that both of these operations are strongly focused on intelligence gathering and investigation, El Salvador may be shifting away from the failed "iron fist" policies of the past and toward smarter policing. This may be necessary to ensure long-term security, given that many gangs in El Salvador operate relatively independently from the mostly incarcerated leadership of MS-13 and Barrio 18, raising questions about the truce's permanence. And while the gangs have apparently agreed to reduce violence, they still practice other criminal activities: extortion is reportedly up 25 percent this year, a practice El Salvador's gangs did not rule out at La Libertad.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

EL SALVADOR / 31 AUG 2012

Five months into a historic ceasefire between El Salvador's street gangs, El Faro profiles the complex history of the notorious…

CHEPE LUNA / 27 MAY 2013

For the second time, the Salvadoran embassy in Washington DC is about to turn into a temporal home for a…

EL SALVADOR / 3 OCT 2011

Some 740,000 people are killed by firearms in Latin America each year, most of them outside combat zones, according to…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…