San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Truce brings gang war to an end in El Salvador

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – Leaders of El Salvador’s two largest street gangs, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Mara 18 (M-18), announced Friday they had reached a truce to curb violence that has turned the country into one of Latin America’s most violent, the daily newspaper El Diario de Hoy reported.

The truce was confirmed by army chaplain Monsignor Fabio Colindres, who said he acted as an intermediary in the talks.

Colindres said the government promised nothing in return, but key gang leaders have been transferred to lower-security prisons.

“We are living a situation of war and we have come to the decision that it has to stop,” said Carlos Ernesto Mojica, aka “El Viejo Lin,” of the M-18 street gang.

Romeo Enrique Henríquez, aka “El Diablo,” from MS-13, said that ending the war with the M-18 has been a long process. “This agreement has taken years of planning to achieve,” he said.

Killings appear to have declined in El Salvador after it was announced earlier this month that the rival gangs would try to strike a deal to end the violence.

Douglas García Funes, director of El Salvador’s Transnational Anti-Gang Center, said his agency registered 20,809 gang members as of 2011, most of them from Mara Salvatrucha. But the actual total of Salvadoran gang members is more likely around 30,000. The anti-gang center was created in 2007 with funding from the United States. It operates as a law enforcement agency that targets gangs.

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