Saturday, February 04, 2017

A less violent January and the path forward



According to statistics from El Salvador's National Civilian Police, the number of murders in the the first month of 2017 dropped to 256, compared with 484 violent deaths in a very bloody January 2016. That represented an average daily murder rate of 8.3, and the country enjoyed its first day without any murders in quite some time.
  
The country is currently debating two questions.   First, will there be an extension of the "exceptional measures" put in place at the end of March 2016?   Those measures include increasingly harsh conditions in the prisons aimed at isolating imprisoned gang leaders as well as more and more aggressive police and military tactics in the communities.  The government credits these measures with bringing down the homicide rate.  The legislative assembly is debating whether to approve an extension to those exceptional measures, which would appear likely.

The second question is whether the government will respond favorably to a proposal by MS-13 and Barrio 18 Sureños to sit down at a table with the government and a mediator such as the Catholic church.   The gangs say the discussions could include the possibility of dismantling the gangs.   Hector Silva Avalos summed up the prospects of discussions in a piece at InsightCrime titled
Negotiations Between El Salvador Govt, MS13 Prove Elusive:
According to security officials, the state is willing to stay the course with its extraordinary measures and continue to tolerate abuses such as those that occurred in Armenia. President Sánchez Cerén's silence, on the other hand, bears the signs of political calculations that do not yet add up to being in favor of dialogue.  
The possible participation of the Catholic Church, this time with the institutional support of the bishops and the Vatican's diplomatic representative (the local nuncio), as well as whispers of the UN's possible participation, appear to indicate that certain dynamics could very well have changed.  
Nevertheless, up until now nothing clearly demonstrates that this will give rise to productive talks, despite the MS13's proposal and the good intentions of the Catholic priests.
Meanwhile a protest at the gates of the National Assembly yesterday addressed both issues.    Family members of gang members accompanied by Lutheran bishop Medardo Gomez rallied to advocate against an extension of the exceptional measures saying they were too punitive on families who could not see their fathers and brothers in the prison.   Bishop Gomez also continued his consistent call for dialogue with the gangs.    According to an article in La Prensa Grafica, police at the rally were visibly hostile and arrested twelve young men in the crowd, and stating that blood was going to run in the streets after gangs killed a police agent the day before.


No comments: