News / Americas

Criminal Gangs in El Salvador Return to War Path After Two-Year Truce

Criminal Gangs in El Salvador Return to War Path After Two-Year Trucei
X
March 25, 2014 4:02 AM
Two years ago, two of the most violent gangs in El Salvador -- Mara Salvatrucha 13 and Barrio 18 -- signed a truce. But fighting between the two criminal groups has been on the rise in recent months, and so has the death toll. Zlatica Hoke reports there is fear of a renewed inter-gang war in one of Latin America's most dangerous countries.

Criminal Gangs in El Salvador Return to War Path After Two-Year Truce

Zlatica Hoke
Two years ago, two of the most violent gangs in El Salvador -- Mara Salvatrucha 13 and Barrio 18 -- signed a truce. But as fighting between the two criminal groups has been on the rise in recent months, so has the death toll.  Fears are starting to grow of a renewed gang war in one of Latin America's most dangerous countries.
 
Majucla is one of the poorest and also one of the most violent communities in El Salvador. Located just north of the capital, San Salvador, Majucla is controlled by the infamous gang known as Mara Salvatrucha, or MS13. Shootings are frequent in the dirt road neighborhood, and no one is safe.
 
The owner of a local bus line, Rigoberto Hernandez, said businesses have to pay to be spared.
 
“It’s very dangerous because we have to work from 4:00 AM, and if somebody doesn’t like you, they can kill you at that time. As we say here, you have to pay to survive,” said Hernandez.
 
During the mid-1990s, fighting between Mara Salvatrucha and the rival Barrio 18 gang often killed up to 16 people a day. Between 2003 and 2009, hardline governments filled El Salvador's prisons with gang members without any impact on violent crime. Then, in March 2012, a left-wing government secretly negotiated a peace deal between the two groups, and the city's murder rate was almost cut in half. 
 
The gangs created violence-free sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers, like bakeries, where former gang members could find jobs.
 
However, police now say that since January, the murder rate has increased, reaching as many as nine homicides per day.
 
Police inspector Perez-Reyes would not confirm that the government had a role in the truce, but said it appears the gangs are back at war.
 
“We have nothing to do with the truce. Apparently it’s an agreement between the gangs. But given the rise in homicides, we think the truce is over,” said Perez-Reyes.
 
Residents in the capital said that even when the murder rate was down, racketeering and other crimes continued. Bus drivers still have to pay gangs a so-called “protection tax”, or renta.
 
Adam Blackwell, security chief for the Organization of American States, said a temporary truce is not enough to permanently rid El Salvador and other Latin American countries of the scourge of gang crime. 
 
“What happened was a truce. A truce is when at a moment in time there is a cease-fire between fighters in a war. What follows is peace and peace is always more complicated and always takes more time. That’s what we are trying to build,” said Blackwell.
 
Analysts said gang members need an alternative to street life, and rehabilitation programs can be complex and costly.
 
Hopes are high that the incoming government of leftist President-elect Salvador Sanchez Ceren will be able to curb gang violence and start building such programs.  He takes office in June.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Mexico Launches Special Police Force to Guard Economic Activity

New 5,000-member force will be part of federal police, and it will focus on protecting agriculture, mining, and oil and gas production against criminal groups
More

Colombia Army, Rebels Meet Face-to-Face at Peace Talks

Sit-down in Havana, Cuba, is first time in 50-year conflict that active-duty officers, FARC members have talked peace together
More

Peru's Congress Fails to Ratify Humala's New Cabinet

Key conservative allies withheld their votes, failure underscores president's waning political power as economy slows
More

US Judge Calls Argentina Debt-Swap Plan 'Illegal'

But, Judge Thomas Griesa stopped short of holding country in contempt, saying that would not help resolve dispute that led to nation's second default in a dozen years
More

Brazil Presidential Race Gets One More Candidate

Environmentalist Marina Silva to join contest for Socialist Party candidate; vote to be held October 5
More

Guatemalan General Killed in Copter Crash Near Mexico Border

General Rudy Ortiz was among five people killed; cause under investigation; weather said to have been possible factor
More