SAN SALVADOR – Transit companies took their buses off the roads in eastern El Salvador Sept. 14 to protest the killings of some 80 drivers, fare-collectors and bus owners, most of which are attributed to members of violent youth gangs.
Some 300 buses that each day cover the route from the eastern city of San Miguel to the capital have been taken out of service, leaving hundreds of people without public transportation.
Those same business owners also halted service on Sept. 13 for six hours to protest the previous day’s slaying of a driver and fare-collector.
Both the Deputy Minister of Public Safety, Astor Escalante, and the National Police Director, Rodrigo Avila, said the action taken by the firms would not help in combating extortion by the gangs.
For months, thousands of small- and mid-size business owners across the country have been harassed by gang members who have threatened them or their families with violence if they do not pay a “rent” or “tax,” prompting many of them to close their businesses.
According to the heads of transit company associations, at least 80 people have been killed this year, including owners, drivers and fare-collectors, and close to 50 buses have been set ablaze.
The business owners have told reporters they are prepared to negotiate with gang leaders to bring an end to the wave of violence.
Official figures indicate that there are roughly 8,700 gang members in El Salvador, almost half of whom are in prison.
Information provided by the National Police shows that an average of 10 people a day are slain in this Central American nation, mostly by street gangs.