A truce called by rival drug gangs gives the violence-ridden Central American country the briefest of respites.
Over the weekend, leaders from North and South America gathered in Cartagena, Colombia, to discuss matters of trade, security, and drugs, which have led to thousands of murders across the continents in recent decades. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tossed back a few and danced up a storm; Prime Minister Stephen Harper admitted the drug war wasn’t exactly working; and some of President Barack Obama’s Secret Service guys, umm, might have picked up a hooker or two. But all that overshadowed one piece of glorious news from a country that doesn’t get too much of it – El Salvador had its first murder-free day in three years on Saturday.
The tiny Central American country, along the route of migrants and drugs destined for the U.S., usually has somewhere in the neighbourhood of 18 murders a day – a number that’s jumped from 12 per day just three years ago. For a country with about 5.7 million people – think the Greater Toronto Area – that means El Salvador has one of the highest murder rates in the world, around 66 per 100,000 people. But thanks to a truce signed by the two biggest drug gangs in El Salvador, Mara 18 and Mara Salvatrucha, there’s been a precipitous decline in bloodshed over the past month. Now, none of these gang leaders were invited to the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena. But if El Salvador’s experience is any indication, any politician hopeful of finding peace in the region ought to engage the drug gangs and cartels with more than just bullets.