August 18 2015
Special security measures, introduced after the recent public transit shutdown which was violently imposed by gangs, will be in place permanently.
Special security measures to protect El Salvador’s public transit drivers and riders after gangs violently forced a transportation boycott last month will remain in place permanently, announced Tuesday.
President Sanchez explained in a speech Tuesday that the recently implemented transportation security “is now a permanent plan that includes increased police presence in buses, stations, terminals, and also in more checkpoints on highways and roads.”
Gang-mandated transport boycott paralyzed the capital city San Salvador for four days
Salvadoran authorities increased transit security at the beginning of August after a gang-mandated transport boycott paralyzed the capital city San Salvador for four days. A sharp spike in gang violence killed at least nine bus drivers during and after the shutdown.
As public transit got back on the road, the government stationed 600 soldiers and additional police office at key transit points and along busy routes to safeguard transit drivers and passengers and mitigate threats of a rumored second round of the gang-mandated boycott.
Right-wing campaign to destabilize President Sanchez’ FMLN government
Government officials have condemned the forced shutdown as a “sabotage” of El Salvador’s public transit and part of a larger right-wing campaign to destabilize President Sanchez’ FMLN government.
Authorities attributed the transport shutdown and spike in violence to El Salvador’s most powerful rival gangs, Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, pegging most of the blame on Barrio 18.
President Sanchez also announced Tuesday that an amendment to the criminal code, aimed at increasing prison control, will be proposed in coming days. Recent amendments to the criminal code have sought to regulate visitors to prisoners.
The announcement comes after Salvadoran authorities issued 300 arrest warrants for gang members accused of terrorism last week in a new effort to crackdown on organized crime in the violence-ridden Central American country.
Authorities also launched a trial last week for 142 gang members accused of charges of terrorism for their involvement in the forced transit shutdown.
A police officer arrests an alleged member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang. | Photo: AFP
For more than a decade, the Salvadoran government has unsuccessfully tried to crack down on gang violence with iron-fist policies. President Salvador Sanchez, who entered office in 2014, raised fears over more tough-on-crime policies and rejected the idea of negotiating with gang members.
El Salvador’s reputation as one the murder capitals of Latin America and the world is largely the result of killings in turf wars between rival gangs, which have transnational roots in the street gangs of Los Angeles.
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Continuing the massive spike in fatal violence this month, authorities recorded 67 homicides in less than four days between last Friday and noon on Monday, including at least 11 deaths as a result of violent clashes between gangs and security forces.
In the first half of 2015, El Salvador’s murder rate spiked by over 50 percent compared to the same period last year, with the violence reaching new heights not seen since the end of the decade-long civil war in 1992.
Source: El Salvador Moves to Protect Public Transit from Gang Violence TeleSUR