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      El Salvador in Peace Process with Gangs?

      The New York Times reports that El Salvador’s political establishment is “rattled” at speculation that a secret deal has been made with imprisoned Mara Salvatrucha leaders to halt the long wave of street killings in that country. Perhaps in return, thirty top mara leaders are being moved to less-harsh prison conditions where they will enjoy family visits.

      As an immediate result of the secret peace process, homicides nationwide dropped to 186 in the first three weeks of March compared to 411 in January and 402 in February. (New York Times, March 25, 2012) On average, 14 persons are killed every day in El Salvador. That number has dropped to five or fewer per day.

      If the killings continue to decline, it means a vindication for long-standing proposals for a peace process in the region, including recognition by gang and ex-gang leaders, and elements of the security forces, that the destruction is futile, and that greater emphasis be placed on rehabilitation, education, training and jobs for unemployed youth. Ex-gang members in groups like Barrios Unidos, clergy like Fr. Greg Boyle in Los Angeles, and Los Angeles gang intervention experts have contributed to the dialogue.

      For more information, please see Street Wars by Tom Hayden, and The Nation.

      The process could meet with fierce opposition and denials from hardline drug warriors because, if the killings decline, it will mean a decisive shift in the region.

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