Gang truce in El Salvador could signal lasting peace

A truce made by gangs in Central America’s ‘most violent nation’ has resulted in a dramatic decline in homicide rates

Hopes are growing for lasting peace after what has now been a nine month truce, agreed in March 2012 by two of El Salvador’s most prominent rival gangs,18th Street and the Mara Salvatrucha-13. Both gangs wanted an end to the ongoing violence in the country.

The country had one of the world’s highest homicide rates, with an average of 14 a day. Since the truce, this has dropped to an average of five a day.

For over a decade the El Salvador government has fought, without success, to tackle the violence caused by the country’s 64,000 gang members. Taking a hard stance, the government deployed the army to control the country’s prisons and created a law that made it illegal to be a gang member. Despite these measures the trouble continued, and in 2011 the UN ranked El Salvador as one of the world’s most violent nations not at war.

The government initially distanced itself from the truce, but is now supporting the negotiations and plans to bring on board other political parties to gain the support of the public, civil societies, and religious groups. It also stated it wants to address the economic and social roots of the problem, including marginalisation, poor education and limited economic opportunities.