If El Salvador didn't experience another murder the rest of the year, it would still finish the year with a homicide rate of approximately 48 per 100,000 Salvadorans.
The causes of such drastic rise in homicides are numerous and complex, ranging from poverty and marginalization of majority of the population of the poor suburbs, barrios, to the fact that El Salvador represents one of the main land transport routes in the lucrative drug trafficking business.
Yet, the main short term cause might be the renewed armed rivalry between the two main gangs in El Salvador, MS 13 and Barrio 18, which has escalated in recent months.
Conflict is further exasperated by the uncompromising attitude of the police which has adopted the aggressive stance towards all gang members, following the example of Mexico, where similar security policies have led to massive human rights abuses and crimes by the police and the army.That's probably right but it might also be a signal from the maras that they really want the government to sit down and negotiate. After a rather violent first six months of the year, there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of murders during the first two weeks of July.
That, of course, leads to the MS-13 and 18th Street gang leaders producing a new letter indicating their interest in finding a solution to the problem of violence in the country. They are letting it be known that they are responsible for the decrease as an act of good faith. The PNC is claiming their policies shown progress.
I don't know if another truce can be salvaged. The public appetite is not there. They want blood and the government and police appear willing to give it to them. I spoke with two people yesterday who were generally positive of the first truce. The truce provided an opportunity for the international community to engage in gang prevention and other projects in parts of the country where they had been unable to work before. Some of the "former" gang members and potential gang recruits seemed to really appreciate the opportunity to participate in meaningful life.
One also thought that the gang leaders were supportive of the truce and providing an opportunity for their foot soldiers to leave because there were just too many of them to support and / or control. It takes a lot of money to support an army. The gangs had evolved to such a point where they did not need tens of thousands of troops.
While we didn't get around to discussing whether there was any way the truce could have been salvaged, they really seemed to believe that it was a genuine effort on the part of thousands of gang members to do something else. Definitely not everyone but the actions of the government, PNC, and international community and the gangs themselves have moved that number closer to zero than it should have been.