Leaders of El Salvador’s powerful gangs have said their members will no longer attack police and the military in a bid to revive a tattered truce and slash high rates of violence that have rocked the Central American nation.
Leaders of five Salvadoran gangs, including Barrio 18 and its rival Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), said on Friday an agreement was reached last Sunday to relaunch a March 2012 truce that cut murder rates by 40 percent.
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“We view this new effort as a second chance for the country to achieve peace,” the leaders said in a statement.
President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, who took office on June 1, said he did not recognise the gangs’ truce, and said he would develop his own strategy for ensuring public safety and reducing crime.
But the gangs warned that the violence in the country would not be reduced unless they gave their wholehearted co-operation, noting that “if we are part of the problem, we can be part of the solution.”
In the first eight months of 2014, murders reached 2,054, an average of 11 per day, well above the five to eight murders per day registered last year.
“We are all victims of the situation of violence that afflicts the country, and we can’t see positive results if we do not promise our determined collaboration,” said the leaders.
It said gang members would also seek to avoid attacking “civilian victims,” who are often executed to pressure family members into paying extortion money.
The gangs have asked the government to “provide facilities” so that churches and civil authorities can facilitate dialogue to resolve conflicts between the groups.
They said the terms of their original truce remain in effect, which include a cessation of hostilities between gang members and “action” against family members and trustees of the police and the prison system.
The leaders also promised to suspend “forced recruitment” and stop “all forms of harassment” in schools and provide guarantees for the free movement of aid and medical groups in areas under the control of their members.