As Western Hemisphere leaders butted heads this weekend at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, one country had a bittersweet reason to celebrate. For the first day in almost three years, no one was murdered in El Salvador.
That might sound like good news for a 6-million person country that saw a shocking 18 murders a day in 2012. However, some have pointed to a disconcerting reason for the relative calm.
El Salvador's public security and justice minister David Munguia cited effective police work as the reason behind the country's recent drop in killings. According to an explosive report by El Salvador's digital newspaper El Faro, however, President Mauricio Funes's administration cut a deal with two notorious gangs -- the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 -- offering government concessions in exchange for reduced homicides in the country.
Both the gangs and the government denied the report's findings. Yet, as the Daily Beast points out, "Salvadorans noted that the dramatic drop in crime immediately followed the transfer in early March of dozens of top gangsters from a maximum-security prison to a common prison, where inmates are allowed conjugal visits, meetings with the press, and other perks."
President Funes claimed that the truce resulted from a Catholic Church initiative, maintaining that his administration was not directly involved. However, Funes "did admit that his government responded to the news of a truce by transferring 30 gang leaders," according to Al Jazeera.
El Salvador claims one of the highest homicide rates in the world, as well as the highest rate of violent fatalities. 20 years after the end of the country's civil war, in which 75,000 people were killed, violence in El Salvador reached record levels earlier this year. The U.S. State Department notes that more than 70 violent deaths are reported for every 100,000 inhabitants.
Whether or not the government was directly involved in the agreement, the prison transfer speaks to the devastating effect of gang violence on El Salvador. As Canada's The Globe and Mail put it last week, "That the government of President Mauricio Funes would be forced to agree to such a truce underscores the destabilizing impact the drug trade has had on [El Salvador]."
According to Reuters, Saturday marked the first murder-free day since President Funes took office in June 2009.
How to vote
Vote-by-mail ballot request deadline: Varies by state
For the Nov 3 election: States are making it easier for citizens to vote absentee by mail this year due to the coronavirus. Each state has its own rules for mail-in absentee voting. Visit your state election office website to find out if you can vote by mail.Get more informationTrack ballot status
In-person early voting dates: Varies by state
Sometimes circumstances make it hard or impossible for you to vote on Election Day. But your state may let you vote during a designated early voting period. You don't need an excuse to vote early. Visit your state election office website to find out whether they offer early voting.My Election Office
General Election: Nov 3, 2020
Polling hours on Election Day: Varies by state/localityMy Polling Place