Deaths are down in El Salvador—declared the most murderous country in the world last year—after the country’s two biggest gangs called a truce. The Central American nation’s gangs evolved in the 1980s, having been established by immigrants in the United States and then expanding into full-blown criminal franchises when members were deported back to El Salvador. This March leaders of Calle 18 and Mara Salvatrucha, the country’s two largest and most dangerous street gangs, joined forces and released a joint statement declaring their commitment to ending violence, pledging to stop recruiting new members. “We’ve been through things that have changed us. It is a waste of life,” said one of Calle 18’s senior members from prison. “We aren’t demobilizing. We’ll always be gangsters. But we are quitting crime little by little as long as we can find jobs and a chance to re-enter society.” Whether or not that’s possible, their plan to decrease the violence has been working. El Salvador’s murder rate has dropped from over 12 killings a day to five, and in April the country marked its first murder-free day in three years.
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