Guatemalan and Honduran Gangs Seek to Follow in Footsteps of Salvadoran Truce

By Dialogo
July 20, 2012

The gangs of Guatemala and Honduras are interested in reaching a truce like the one agreed on in El Salvador by the bloody Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio-18 gangs, AFP was told on July 18 by one of the mediators in the process of easing tensions.

Encouraged by the results produced by the truce in El Salvador, leaders of Guatemalan gangs came to San Salvador weeks ago to meet with bishop and military chaplain Fabio Colindres and former legislator and former guerrilla commander Raúl Mijango, both of whom are mediators of the truce.

From Honduras, it was the public-safety authorities themselves who made a trip to find out “on site” about the gang truce, with the aim of examining the possibility of transferring the experience to that country.

“We met a few days ago with Guatemalan gang leaders; they wanted us to help them to start a process, but we clearly indicated to them that it wasn’t possible to help them with a process of similar characteristics, because the realities are different,” Mijango commented to AFP.

Colindres and Mijango told the gang members from Guatemala about the different stages that led to the “unprecedented” truce process in El Salvador, which began on March 9 and has cut the average daily number of homicides in the country from 14 to 5.6.

Nevertheless, the gangs continue to engage in extortion targeting private individuals, retailers, transportation workers, and other productive sectors in the country.

Mijango said that the best thing that can happen in Guatemala is that “they look for local facilitators, without ties to the state but who enjoy the trust of the gangs and the Government, because in that way, a credible peace process can be constructed.”

With regard to the meeting with Honduran authorities, Mijango stressed that their mission was to find out how “we’re finding a solution to a problem that appeared not to have one.”

In El Salvador, “it’s based on the experience that we accumulated with the peace process to end the civil war (1980-1992), and paying attention to the complexities of the social problem of gangs, that the truce has remained in effect until today,” Mijango emphasized.

On July 13, in the context of a visit to El Salvador by the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, the local gangs made a symbolic gesture by destroying old weapons, as a preliminary step toward a “partial disarmament.”