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El Salvador: reason for optimism

Thursday, June 14, 2012

WHAT A truce between gangs could change both the financial and the political climates of El Salvador, a country which for several years has had the region's worst-performing economy, with weak growth rates, and low levels of investment by foreigners, who in many cases are alienated by the country's serious crime problem.

WHY After years of killing each other, along with innocent bystanders, El Salvador's two big gangs, Mara Salvatrucha 13 and Mara Salvatrucha 18, last March agreed to a truce, brokered by the government of President Mauricio Funes, and the Catholic Church. The result has been a sharp drop in crime, with 40% fewer households reporting themselves as victims of a robbery, according to last month's CID Gallup poll. Homicides meanwhile have fallen by two thirds, according to government data.

WHAT NEXT A lasting peace could mean good news for Funes' left-leaning FMLN (Spanish initials for the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front), especially if it prompts an increase in investment, and additional jobs. In legislative elections held last March, two right-wing parties - Arena (Republican Nationalist Alliance) and Gana (Grand Alliance for National Unity) - together won a majority. In addition, last month's CID Gallup poll showed that if presidential elections were held today, the winner would be Arena's Norman Quijano. But with the election of a new president still 23 months away, the FMLN has time to work on ensuring that the truce persists.

For more information, please contact Esteban Alvarez, at [email protected]