The Salvadoran gang peace process, launched 13 months ago in El Salvador’s overcrowded prison system, continues to result in dramatic reductions of homicides. According to The Economist, 2,000 lives already have been saved. Since this past January, five communities have been declared as “peace zones” where gangs are attempting to end murders and extortion while government agencies create jobs.
The government headed by Mauricio Funes is promising $72 million (US) for the peace zones, and forty local mayors have expressed their support and interest. The Salvadoran murder rate fell by more than half last year, a violence reduction attributed to the truce. Efforts to instigate a peace process go back as far as the Nineties, and have involved transnational networks such as Homies Unidos.
While the process centers on agreements by gang members to end their fratricidal killings and mayhem, the effort has won key support from the Catholic Archdiocese, former guerrillas who ended the country’s bloody civil wars, and a global network of social justice organizations. El Salvador’s security minister emphasizes that gang members are sill being arrested for crimes they commit – like robberies – and the state is building a 500-member anti-gang police unit. The difference is that “we are leaving doors open” for youths seeking rehabilitation, training, jobs and alternative futures.