El Salvador gang leaders confirmed that they have agreed amongst themselves to reduce violence, setting the stage for a new political war over the dynamics of El Salvador's homicide rate. 

In a joint statement, the leaders of El Salvador's largest gangs -- including the MS13 and Barrio 18 -- said they had forged a truce on January 17. As a result, they said, El Salvador's murder rate dropped from an average of 14 homicides a day to less than five a day over the following week, and included the first homicide-free day of the year (something that was also confirmed by police).

Gang leaders said they voluntarily committed to this agreement, despite what they called "unfavorable conditions," in order to show the government that "it cannot continue ignoring that 'Maras' and street gangs can be an important part of the solution." They also said the gangs would begin a "serious peace process" if the state and civil society were ready to engage as well.

InSight Crime Analysis

While gang leaders have claimed credit for a very short-term drop in violence, the government has stuck to its guns, reiterating that it "does not and will not negotiate" with gangs. Both the gangs and authorities have their own interests at stake, and in the coming weeks, both will likely present two very different interpretations of what is happening in El Salvador. This complex scenario of competing interests will make it extremely difficult to determine the gangs' actual impact on violence -- and who should bear more responsibility for committing that violence.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives and Negatives

For its part, the government will likely downplay or attribute any short-term drops in homicides to their own initiatives, and may also hold up new violence as evidence of a broken truce. In one recent example, police attributed the murder of five road workers to gang rivalries. Meanwhile, in their latest statement, gang leaders blamed death squads for a large portion of El Salvador's violence and claimed that these groups operate with support from public and private entities. 

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

As InSight Crime has pointed out previously, the announcement of this new truce looks particularly timely given El Salvador's upcoming elections in March. The annoucement of this truce appears intended to boost the gangs' political clout, and thus aid them in securing concessions -- such as halting the transfer of gang leaders to maximum security prisons. Gangs may also be feeling cornered by a government whose head of police recently told the country's cops that they should use their weapons on criminals "with complete confidence." 

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
Prev Next

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...