Salvadoran Gangs Offer Insulza Partial Disarmament as Part of Unprecedented Truce
By Dialogo July 16, 2012On July 12, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza held a prison meeting with leaders of El Salvador’s feared gangs, who promised him “partial disarmament” as a “gesture” in the context of an unprecedented truce they began four months ago.
Amid heavy security measures, in a room in La Esperanza penitentiary in northern San Salvador, Insulza spoke in private with the leaders of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Mara 18 (M-18), who gave him a list of requests and announced their offer.
“We’ve agreed to make a new gesture of good will, with which we hope (…) to contribute to restoring social peace (…); it consists of a symbolic partial disarmament,” they stressed in a joint statement, read to the press by one of the leaders of M-18, Carlos Mojica Lechuga.
Insulza, who concluded a two-day visit to El Salvador to learn about the evolution of the truce on July 13, announced that the organization will design a procedure for carrying out the partial disarmament.
“An appropriate reception mechanism has to be designed, some things should be verified, there are weapons that might be linked to crimes committed previously, it’s of interest to know the origin of the weapons, it will be necessary to design a procedure,” Insulza said after meeting with President Mauricio Funes.
“I’ve received their proposals, I’m very impressed with what I’ve heard, it was a very significant meeting, (the truce) is a work in progress, but we’re going to give it all possible support,” Insulza stated, describing himself as “very hopeful.”
The gang leaders declined to specify the number or type of weapons, but they said that they would turn them over to Insulza to be melted down and made into a monument, through military chaplain Fabio Colindres and former guerrilla commander Raúl Mijango, the mediators of the truce.
One of the leaders of MS-13, Carlos Tiberio Valladares, confirmed to the press that they directly asked Insulza for the Organization of American States (OAS) to “be a guarantor of the process (so that) it leads to social peace.”
MS-13 and M-18, which have links to drug trafficking and have sowed terror in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, agreed in March on a truce that, according to official data, has helped to cut the average daily homicide rate from 14 to 5.6, although sectors of society question its real effectiveness.
For analyst and academic Juan Ramón Medrano, the greatest challenge is the “maintenance” of the truce and “preventing more young people from joining gangs.” The state should “take away from them” the “territories they control” with social projects, he noted.
Despite the fact that as part of the truce, the gangs decided in May to halt the forced recruitment of young people and declared disputed schools “peace areas,” crimes and the disappearances of students have continued, according to human-rights organizations.
Nevertheless, Mijango noted to AFP that in the first 123 days of the truce, 1,077 deaths were prevented, and there was a “significant reduction” in gang extortion targeting private individuals, retailers, and transportation workers.