Mara Salva-Truce-A: El Salvadoran Gangs Broker Tentative Peace

A member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang displays his tattoos inside the Chelatenango prision in El Salvador. Photo by Moisen Saman, courtesy of Sony World Photograpy Award 2008

A Mara Salvatrucha gang member displays his tattoos inside the Chelatenango prison in El Salvador. Photo by Moisen Saman, courtesy of Sony World Photography Award 2008/Creative Commons

The most significant story in Central America right now is also the most underreported. El Salvador, the tiniest country in the land belt connecting North and South America, has long suffered socioeconomic violence—first in its civil war during the 1980s, then in the period of organized crime’s rising power in the 1990s, and most recently under the mano dura years of conservative authoritarianism—largely in answer to the growing influence of transnational criminal gangs in the 2000s. But since the start of May, El Salvador’s murder rate—by some estimates, the highest in the world in 2011has dropped by nearly 66 percent, the result of a truce between the country’s two leading gangs (or maras, as they are popularly known) that was brokered in March by religious and government representatives and deepened by gang leaders on May 2.

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