Historic gang truce in El Salvador impacts LA immigrant community

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Many Salvadorans have wished fervently for a truce between two violent transnational gangs. A couple of months ago, that wish finally came true — and now, gang intervention groups in Los Angeles are working to help keep it that way.

Twenty years ago, El Salvador’s civil war pushed thousands of immigrants and refugees to L.A. In the vacuum that followed the peace accords, poor economic conditions, unemployment and a history of violence helped fuel gang activity in the Central American country.

Young Salvadoran deportees from L.A. joined their ranks until the Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street gangs became dueling, brutal armies in El Salvador — and in the United States.

March’s historic truce between the two gangs has become a rare example of conflict resolution, one that gang intervention workers in L.A. are eager to follow.

Chicano writer Luis Rodriguez, author of “Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.,” spoke with a group of Salvadorans and former gang members witnessing, from afar, what’s happening in El Salvador.

“Can’t we see peace in our neighborhoods?" he asked the assembled crowd. "Can’t we see peace in Guatemala, in Honduras, in Mexico, in 'otros lugares,' wherever? Can’t we see it when El Salvador has peace?"

L.A.-based priests and mothers of slain gang members are joining a transnational advisory group in support of the truce. They will join people like Rodriguez and Aqeela Sherrills, who brokered a peace agreement between the Bloods and the Crips, in seeking lessons from El Salvador to apply to Southern California.

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