Truce Among Gangs Becomes a Peace Process in El Salvador

By Dialogo
September 14, 2012

Members of the Barrio 18 gang affirmed from the jail in Cojutepeque, about 22 miles east of San Salvador, on September 12, that a ceasefire that began on March 9 turned into a process of social “pacification” in El Salvador.

“This is not a truce, it is the beginning of a peace process,” declared the Barrio 18 gang leader, Carlos Mójica Lechuga, better known as “el Viejo Lin” (Old Lin).

After participating in a religious ceremony in the overcrowded prison in Cojutepeque, with capacity for 350 inmates, housing 1,039, Mójica ordered all members of his gang to maintain the peace process that the Organization of American States (OAS) is overseeing.

“Our colleagues nationwide asked us to stay firm,” emphasized Mójica.

The negotiation process began on March 9 among gangs Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18, under the mediation of bishop Fabio Colindres and former guerrilla commander Raúl Mijango.

Since the beginning of the truce, the daily average homicides dropped from 14 to 5 per day.

Colindres, who held a religious ceremony in the Cojutepeque prison, on the anniversary of the first six months of the cessation of hostilities, said that gang members are part of “an area of society that was brutally marginalized”.

“On March 9, you took an important step to lower the murder rate; six months later you maintained it, so that is why I have come to encourage you, I have come to tell you that there is a future for you,” emphasized the vicar.

Meanwhile, Mijango commented that in the 189 days of truce, 1,624 Salvadoran lives have been “spared from death.”

During a speech, “el Viejo Lin” said that Barrio 18 “reaffirms confidence” in Colindres and Mijango, whom he described as “true patriots” to encourage a process that has “many critics”.

“What is sought is to achieve a definitive peace; if our actions in the past led to death, today it is different,” stressed the gang leader.

In El Salvador, according to official data, about 10,000 gang members are serving prison sentences and 50,000 are still on the streets.