Updated 06:46 AM EDT, Fri, Oct 23, 2020

El Salvador to Culminate in Bloody Civil War? Gang Violence Reportedly Persisting

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The criminal gangs at El Salvador have agreed to a truce prior to the May 23 beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

El Salvador's gangs, known as "maras," have vowed to cease violence, theft, extortions, and other crimes during the beatification period, according to Paolo Lüers, the mediator of peace negotiations between the government of the Central American country and the gangs, Crux Now reported.

These crimes involve killing police officers, soldiers, judges, politicians, and people with low incomes "most affected by the violence," Crux Now noted. The gangs also guaranteed that they will desist "armed attacks" and relinquish their claim to "self-defense rights," as well as reducing extortion and theft, the news outlet added.

Gang leaders also stated that "pacification measures" will be observed so as to lessen El Salvador's violence, "despite not sensing equal willingness from the government," Crux Now added. The official announcement was signed by the nation's largest crime syndicates, including MS-13 or Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18.

Romero was fatally shot while preaching mass in 1980, the news outlet reported. He is considered a national hero in El Salvador for defending the poor and promoting human rights at the beginning of a violent civil war.

According to The Tico Times, El Salvador saw its "bloddiest month in a decade" in March, where gang members armed with high-caliber assault rifles opened fire repeatedly on police stations and army posts. The violence resulted on the deaths of 23 police and six soldiers.

As a result, President Salvador Sánchez Cerén has "created four new 'rapid response' battalions - one for the police and three for the army," The Tico Times wrote. Elite squads of soldiers and police are in preparation to hold a "guerrilla-style war" against El Salvador's most violent gangs.

Describing the country in a "defining moment," security expert Juan Ramon Medrano said that "the government has not given up on prevention and rehabilitation" and is "fighting the gangs with intensifying repression," the news outlet reported.

The gang leaders, however, said that they are still expecting "concrete proposals to reintegrate gang members into society," explaining that the government's continued discussions about social peace usually don't succeed, Crux Now wrote.

According to the leaders, they were being "exterminated," claiming that 140 gang members have been killed in the last two months, the news outlet added. MS-13 and Barrio 18 have 10,000 members in jail and 60,000 on the streets, exchanging bloody territorial wars to control extortion and the drug trade, The Tico Times noted.

Raúl Mijango, a former leftist guerrilla commander turned activist and one of the mediators of a failed gang truce, said that El Salvador is on its way to conflict which "has some of the same characteristics as the civil war," The Tico Times noted. At times, the gangs resemble the armed groups in the nation's 1980-1992 dispute.

According to Mijango, the "closing of the space for dialogue" started by the truce was the one to blame, which "initially saw the daily homicide rate fall from 14 to five," the news outlet reported. Last March, the killings rose to 15.5.

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