El Salvador is one of the world’s most dangerous nations due to the war between the Mara Salvatrucha 13 and 18th Street Gang (Barrio 18). In March 2012, imprisoned leaders of the two largest street gangs announced a truce, thus leading to the suspension of violent conflicts between the two gangs. The leaders also announced that they would cease-fire in school zones, end forced recruitment, and stop extorting or “taxing” the small businesses that operate in their communities.
Since the truce in 2012, the National Civil Police (PNC) registered 2,675 murders; compared to the 2011 PNC figure of 4,371 homicides, according to EFE news agency. The number of people filed missing decreased as well. However, according to an article, 876 people disappeared in the first quarter of 2012, with more than 600 of those taking place since the truce went into effect. Additionally, the article states that since the truce, gang members have now begun to extort large businesses and prey increasingly on bus drivers and other transportation employees.
Experts say the current truce opens the door to a tremendous opportunity: Salvadoran society, government, private sector, and international donors should move quickly to use the pause in violence to help create social service and job programs in some of the poorest and most gang-ridden communities. Nonetheless, it still remains a challenge for businesses to deliver goods and services to gang-controlled neighborhoods.