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Honduran bishop brokers gang truce

Masked members of the 18th Street gang give a press conference inside the San Pedro Sula prison in Honduras (Photo: PA)

A bishop in Honduras has helped broker a peace deal between two of the country’s most violent gangs. 18th Street and Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), whose violent activity has heavily contributed to Honduras having the world’s highest murder rate, have agreed to end their criminality after discussions with Bishop Romulo Emiliani of San Pedro Sula.

The bishop said that the gangs made the first step towards a truce when their leaders ask him to mediate between them and, following delicate discussions, a truce was agreed upon.

Bishop Emiliani said: “They want to reconcile with Honduran society and ask for forgiveness from the Honduran people, and I think it is a step forward.”

The gang members who spoke from the prison said they wanted the government to help them find work. When asked to comment on this, Bishop Emiliani said: “What is coming is difficult. It is not easy. It is complicated.”

A spokesman for the MS-13 gang, identified only as Marco, said: “Our truce is with God, society and authorities. We ask society and authorities to forgive us for the damage we have done.”

Moments later, a member of 18th Street gave a news conference from another prison cell in which he said that his gang were making the same peace offer as MS-13, “if the government will listen.” His face was covered by a scarf and he didn’t give his name.

Although Bishop Emiliani was the main mediator between the two gangs he also had the support of Honduran president Porfirio Lobo, who gave his government’s backing to the negotiations. Once the truce had been announced, President Lobo said: “I would like to express my congratulations and my appreciation in name of the people of Honduras.”

Another truce in El Salvador signed 14 months ago by the 18th Street and Mara Salvatrucha gangs decreased the number of murders in that country by 52 per cent, accord to the Salvadoran government. San Pedro Sula has a daily average of three murders, making it the most violent city in the world.