Political posturing and American indifference have put bloody El Salvador on the path toward a second civil war
If you make a pact with the devil, the devil will expect much in return.
That is exactly what El Salvador's former leftist President Mauricio Funes did in 2012 with his party, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), and the Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13) and 18th Street, or Barrio 18 gangs -- both created in Los Angeles, and responsible for many murders and much anguish here and throughout the United States.
We now know that many young children who were coerced into joining these gangs had been previously involved as government child soldiers or guerrilla fighters in their home countries of El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Mexico. These children eventually grew into vicious gang members who attacked their enemies -- other gangs and civilians -- without mercy.
In the 1990s, President Bill Clinton quietly ordered the deportation of gangsters living in the United States. Thousands of Mexican and Central American gang members were deported to their home countries and stripped of their US naturalized citizenship, permanent residency, and Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
They arrived in their home countries desolate and without hope of finding any type of work. Most established new cliques throughout El Salvador and other countries. While the FMLN and Arena, El Salvador's two main political parties, fought for electoral power throughout the first few years of the new century, MS-13 and 18th Street gang members were growing up and busily consolidating their drug-fueled power in the country's poorest and most neglected areas.
Funes served as president from 2009 to 2014. Yes, he and some of his top military brass and the Catholic Church negotiated a truce between MS-13 and 18th Street gang members in 2012. But they apparently did not take into account what such a deal with those particular devils might bring.
There are an estimated 25,000 gang members at large in El Salvador, with another 9,000 in prison. Another 60,000 youth are believed to be involved with juvenile gangs. The Mexican cartels have infiltrated their ranks and now recruit these gangsters as foot soldiers and drug traffickers.
After the FMLN made this pact, which saw gang leaders agreeing to stop murdering people in return for better prison conditions, including transfers and family visits, the killings tapered off.
The truce was credited for a drop in homicides, from an average of 14 per day to five, over 16 months. People living in gang-controlled areas said the truce had an unanticipated effect, allowing gangs to increasingly prey on everyday citizens through extortion and terror. Ultimately, according to The Asociated Press, "homicide numbers started rising again in June 2013 and never came back down."
To take care of the growing body count, Salvadoran gangsters have created clandestine cemeteries in remote areas, according to a number of news websites. They also entomb the bodies of their victims within the cement floors of "destroyer homes" or "crazy houses," where they congregate, torture victims and conduct satanic rituals.
According to The AP, El Salvador had more homicides in March than any other single month in a decade. Data from the National Civil Police, The AP reported, show 481 homicides recorded in March, or more than 15 a day. There were 73 murders in the first five days of April. In the month of June, over 677 individuals were murdered, more than any other single month since the country's civil war ended in 1992, amounting to an average of 22.6 killings per day.
The United States, the FMLN and Arena have been responsible for allowing these gangs to grow astronomically. Thousands of civilians have been brutally murdered while the United States and the two political parties have turned a blind eye to the gravity of the situation.
The US State Department recently warned of the unsafe conditions in El Salvador, as more than 35 US citizens have been murdered in the last few years. Most were Salvadorans who became naturalized US citizens and returned as tourists without knowing what might be involved in dealing with gangsters.
Some have romanticized gang culture. But there is nothing romantic or glamorous about living in impoverished areas most affected by bloody gang violence.
Shame on the United States and El Salvador's political powers for not doing more to stop the murders of innocent poor people in that nation and other Central American countries. Now is not the time to ignore what is going on. Now is the time to act, before the situation becomes even worse.
Randy Jurado Ertll is the author of the novel "The Lives and Times of El Cipitio." His web-site is WWW.RANDYJURADOERTLL.COM