BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Sixty-four percent of Colombians believe the government’s peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia must end with a resolution to the country’s longest-running conflict, according to a Gallup poll released in May that surveyed 8.7 million people. Above, Colombians participated in a march for peace on April 9. (Eitan Abramovich/AFP)
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – Leaders of five gangs announced from a Salvadoran prison they’re asking all gang members to turn in their weapons as part of an initiative by the Organization of American States (OAS).
Along with the Deputy Secretary of the OAS Security Adam Blackwell, the leaders of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), Barrio 18 (M-18), Mao Mao, Máquina and Miranda Locos expressed their commitment to disarmament during a press conference in La Esperanza prison in the municipality of Mejicanos on the northern outskirts of the nation’s capital of San Salvador.
This past July, gang members delivered the first batch of weapons to OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza as a goodwill gesture.
“Violence is no longer an option,” said Barrio 18 leader Carlos Mójica Lechuga.
Blackwell is pleased with the gangs’ decision.
“We will start a process that aims for complete abandonment of any criminal activity,” Blackwell said in a prepared statement.
There was a 53% drop in murders in El Salvador during the six months since the MS-13 and M-18 declared a truce on March 8, according to the National Civil Police (PNC).
A total of 959 killings were reported nationwide from March 8 through the end of August, a marked decrease after 1,113 were documented during the same time period last year. The country’s murder rate has fallen from 68 to 23 per 100,000 residents – and this has changed how the country is perceived, President Mauricio Funes said.
El Salvador is no longer home to the world’s second-highest murder rate, which it had in 2011, when a rate of 66 trailed only Honduras’ 82.1, according to the 2011 United Nation’s Global Study on Homicide.
[AFP (El Salvador), 20/01/2013; El Mundo (El Salvador), 18/01/2013; La Jornada en línea (Mexico), 19/01/2013]