Public transportation is up and running again in El Salvador after gangs forced a shutdown of services on Monday, paralyzing the capital city in what the ruling FMLN party condemned as part of a broader destabilization campaign against the government.
After a spike in violence and nine murders of bus drivers and other transit operators by gang members seeking to enforce the work stoppage and foment chaos, transit vehicles are back on the roads with increased protections for workers.
El servicio público de transporte en El Salvador se normalizó luego del paro de 4 días por amenaza de las maras. pic.twitter.com/Ux0REdfCkq— Mynor Cortez (@mcortez_aldia) July 31, 2015
“Public transportation services in El Salvador normalized after four days of the strike by gang threats.”
The government has stationed 600 soldiers and additional police office at key transit points and along busy routes to safeguard both transportation workers and passengers.
Thousands of commuters were impacted by the forced transportation boycott this week imposed by gangs threatening violence against workers who did not comply with the mandated shutdown. To counteract the standstill, the government deployed army vehicles and other state resources to transport hundreds of Salvadorans to homes and workplaces.
As the mandated boycott comes to and end with hopes of normality returning to the capital San Salvador, President Salvador Sanchez Ceren is in Cuba for routine medical checkups.
A policeman guards a bus stop during the fourth day of a suspension of public transport services in San Salvador, July 30, 2015. | Photo: Reuters
According to police, some 30 gang members have been arrested in recent days. Authorities attributed the violence and forced strike 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.
Gangs forced the transportation boycott on Monday to pressure the government to ease up on the crackdown against organized crime and to negotiate reduced sentences for convicted gang members.
But President Sanchez Ceren has repeatedly stated his government is not willing to engage in dialogue with gangs, taking a different position than his predecessor who oversaw a 15-month truce between rival gangs in 2012.
Suspected members of Barrio 18 gang accused of collaboration in attacks against bus drivers in San Salvador, July 30, 2015. | Photo: Reuters
Authorities reiterated the position on Friday, saying that the country's security council unanimously agreed to reject talks with gangs after a recent letter signed by Barrio 18 and MS-13 leader in jail called on the government to negotiate.
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.
In the first half of 2015, the El Salvador's murder rate spiked by over 50 percent compared to the same period last year, reaching a new height of nearly 16 deaths per day that surpasses even the level of violence in the country before the 2012 truce cut down on killings.
The month of June alone saw 677 of the 2,865 murders recorded so far this year, making it the most deadly month on record since the end of over a decade of civil war in 1992.