Trust the gang truce? Even a year later, Salvadorans skeptical.

Although a delicate truce between the MS-13 and 18th Street gangs has held for a year, 70 percent of Salvadorans say the gangs' word can't be trusted.

Ulises Rodriguez/Reuters
Jailed gang members play a board game at the maximum security jail of Izalco in Sonsonate last week. Jailed members of the country's two most powerful gangs MS-13 and the 18th Street gang (Mara 18), members of civic organizations and Bishop Fabio Colindres celebrated mass to mark the first anniversary since the two gangs signed a truce in March 2012 in an effort to reduce violent crimes in the country.

• A version of this post ran on the author's blog. The views expressed are the author's own.

[For background on the El Salvador gang truce, see The Christian Science Monitor's feature package with stories here, here, and here.]

It is one thing to talk about El Salvador's gang truce, which celebrated its one year anniversary last weekend, in blog posts and newspaper articles. It is another thing to live in communities where crime is prevalent. How do the bulk of Salvadorans view the truce?
 
In polling by the University of Central America during mid-November 2012, there were high levels of skepticism about the truce. 66.4 percent of those polled believed that the truce had reduced the level of crime little or not at all. 89.4 percent of the respondents had little or no trust in the truce.

La Prensa Grafica (LPG) polling in February 2013 showed that 55.2 percent of Salvadorans had a negative opinion of the truce while only 29.7 percent had a positive view. The respondents were about evenly split over whether or not there should be negotiations with the gangs. And 70 percent said that one could not trust the gangs to fulfill their promises.
 
When LPG asked people for the reasons for the gang problem, 36.2 percent blamed the parents and the educational system of the country, while 30.7 percent focused on economic factors. According to LPG, respondents from the middle and upper classes were more likely to blame the breakdown of families, while persons from the lower classes were more likely to focus on economic forces behind young men joining gangs. Salvadorans are split on whether resolving the gang problem requires more iron fist policies including the death penalty, or whether there should be a focus on job creation, and re-insertion of gang members into society.
 
 In short, the people on El Salvador's streets are uncertain about where this process is headed and whether it is even a good thing... 

 Tim Muth covers the news and politics of El Salvador on his blog.

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