A truce between rival gangs in El Salvador that took effect in March has reduced the country’s homicide rate by 52 percent, said President Mauricio Funes.
Funes said that between March and June, 694 people were killed, which represents less than half of the murders during the same period in 2011, according to the EFE news agency, citing a local radio station.
The two major gangs in the country, the notoriously violent Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, and Barrio 18 said they would stop fighting one another at the behest of a Catholic bishop in the capital city of San Salvador.
Some analysts said that the gangs have tried to hide murder by forcing disappearances.
But Funes said, “The number of missing persons has gone down by around 25 percent, or 107 fewer disappearances (during the first six months of this year), so it is in no way certain that many homicides are listed as missing persons -- it’s just not true,” according to the news agency.
The announcement comes after the head of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, visited a prison in San Salvador to lend support to the gangs’ decision.
“Thanks to your courage in opening yourselves to understanding and to conversations, and for understanding that the good that comes of this will be a lesson that could be applied in other countries that suffer from criminal violence,” he said in a statement.
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