Can Honduras mirror El Salvador's successful gang truce?

Gangs in Honduras have less centralized leadership than in El Salvador, and some say the truce won't succeed. But many analysts doubted the potential of the Salvadoran truce, which has now lasted more than a year.

By , Guest blogger

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    A masked member of the 18th Street gang peers from behind a window of a prison door as other gang members give a press conference inside the San Pedro Sula prison in Honduras, Tuesday. Honduras' largest and most dangerous street gangs have declared a truce. The Honduran government says it supports the truce but will not give concessions to the gangs.
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• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, bloggingsbyboz.com. The views expressed are the author's own.

The Honduran gang leaders of MS-13 and Pandilla 18 signed a truce [Tuesday] officially mediated by the Catholic Church and the OAS. The truce, modeled off the one in El Salvador, looks to reduce violence across Honduras, but particularly in San Pedro Sula. The Honduran government says it supports the truce but will not give concessions to the gangs. However, it appears that like El Salvador, the Honduran government is more involved in this truce than they are admitting publicly.
 
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1. The truce is unlikely to have the same level of success in Honduras as it did in El Salvador. Even those brokering the Honduran truce admit that. The gangs in Honduras are more diverse with less centralized leadership. There are also other actors involved in the crime and violence, including the Honduran police, that complicate the issue.

2. Let me add a bit of caution to that first point. Many analysts, myself included, underestimated the potential success of the Salvadoran gang truce when it was first reached. I did not expect the truce in El Salvador to lower the violence by nearly half, nor did I think it would remain so solidly in place over a year later. I'd be happy to be similarly wrong about Honduras if it means reducing violence by half.

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3. Even a little success with this truce would be good. A 10 percent decline in murders would be hundreds of fewer deaths, particularly in San Pedro Sula. For that reason, we shouldn't hold this truce to the standard of El Salvador and we should be happy for any sustainable decline in violence that it can bring.

4. Lessons learned from El Salvador include issues to watch. Do the gangs shift tactics or increase non-violent crimes to make up revenues? Do NGOs identify increases in disappearances and extortion that aren't reported by official statistics? If violence is reduced, does the truce provide gangs political leverage over the government through their potential threat to undo the progress?

– James Bosworth is a freelance writer and consultant who runs Bloggings by Boz.

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