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OAS Secretary General Visits Salvadoran Prison and Shows Support for Process to End Gang Violence

  July 12, 2012

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today visited La Esperanza Prison, located on the outskirts of San Salvador, to support the decision of two groups of prisoners to begin a peace process to put an end to the confrontations between gangs, one of the most difficult security dilemmas faced by the government of El Salvador.

Insulza said the agreement between the gang organizations constitutes “an opening to a space for hope,” and applauded the effort of the inmates to “look for a way to move forward in the midst of a difficult stage, filled with obstacles.” “Thanks to your courage in opening yourselves to understanding and to conversations, and for understanding that the good that comes of this will be a lesson that could be applied in other countries that suffer from criminal violence,” he said to the inmates.

In the context of a visit to El Salvador at the invitation of President Mauricio Funes, Insulza traveled to the prison following his first official audience with the Foreign Minister Hugo Martínez. In the prison he was met by the military bishop of El Salvador, Monsignor Fabio Colindres, one of the authors of the rapprochement between the gangs, to look for ways to end the violence brought by street crime in the country.

During the meeting, the two groups sat around a table and, in addition to declaring before Secretary General Insulza and Monsignor Colindres their commitment to put an end to violent acts, they also expressed their desire to be treated with dignity and to achieve reforms in the prison system and the legal administration.

The chief representative of the OAS expressed his satisfaction at the positive terms of the proposals put forward by the two groups, but above all stressed: “I congratulate you because none of you has left out the role of justice; on the contrary, you are asking for better prison conditions, administrative changes and more attention for the sick.” In his reply to the proposals put forward by the inmates, Insulza expressed his wish that the results of the process take on a permanent status. “The advances must be made concrete, and it must be done promptly, because the peace you are able to achieve saves lives, and that is transcendent. Let’s be patient and maintain hope,” he said.

For his part, Monsignor Colindres said he was “moved” by the gesture of the OAS Secretary General to come to the Salvadoran prison to support the young prisoners who are looking to rehabilitate themselves. He also expressed his recognition of the work done by the OAS through its Secretariat of Multidimensional Security under the charge of Ambassador Adam Blackwell, through which, working together with the Salvadoran government, work plans designed to combat the actions of criminal groups have been planned.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-250/12