The Transformation of El Salvador's Gangs into Political Actors

Hemisphere Focus

Over the past three months, the administration of President Mauricio Funes in El Salvador has undertaken a high-stakes policy gamble in negotiating with some of the largest and most violent gangs in the hemisphere in the hopes of reducing his country's chilling homicide rate and lessening violence in the country.

The pact - improved prison conditions for jailed gang leaders in exchange for a truce between the two leading gangs - is already being viewed as a possible solution for other Central American nations with similar problems.  But the result is likely to be a short-term drop in activity as gangs morph into political actors. While it may seem like there are fewer bodies in the street now, the overall level of criminality has not abated. What's more, gang structures have grown more sophisticated.

Douglas Farah