September 9 marked six months since El Salvador’s gangs declared a truce, which reduced the average daily killings from 14 to 5.5, officials said.
On March 9, under the mediation of Military Chaplain Fabio Colindres and former rebel commander Raúl Mijango, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 (M-18) gangs mutually agreed to cease the war, which had given the country the image of being one of the most violent in the world.
“It has not been easy to get where we are. There are many who do not believe in this process and we respect that, but any ideas to stop with this painfully difficult violence is valid and we have to try, time will tell,” Colindres said.
The Military Chaplain recalled that in the past six months the gangs have announced a series of measures as “goodwill gestures,” such as not harming students, women, transport workers, police and soldiers.
At the beginning of July, José Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), officially stated that the organization would verify the process. The OAS then witnessed the gangs’ laying down nearly a hundred weapons in San Salvador.
A survey released in July by the Technological University noted that for 57.7% of Salvadorans the truce does not inspire “confidence,” 26.2% expressed “poor” confidence and only 13.2% said they were “very confident.”
Sectors of the population pointed out that despite the relevance of the pact, extortion remains, especially against the public transportation sector.
“Gangs are not killing each other, but they collectively continue to extort the public transportation sector; there are bus and minibus routes, for which we are paying US$400 to US$800 in weekly extortions,” said Catalino Miranda, president of the Federation of Transportation Unions. “The truce [nonetheless] has saved 1,574 lives in the six months it has been in force,” he added.
President Mauricio Funes said El Salvador had a rate of 68 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, but after the truce that rate had drastically dropped to 23.