Crisis caused by threats against buses deepens

For a second day, more than a thousand buses on 40 bus routes in the greater San Salvador area were not operating.   Bus owners pulled their units off the streets in response to gangs who were threatening with death anyone who did not comply.    And it was no idle threat, as the number of murders of transport workers since Sunday rose to 8.

The economic cost imposed by the gangs on the country was enormous.   Bus operators said they were losing $800,000 per day.   As many as 4000 drivers lost their daily wages.    Thousands of workers could not get to work.     Productivity was lost as workers arrived late after scrambling to find alternate transportation and businesses closed early to give workers a chance to arrive home safely.   Secondary schools and universities cancelled classes when students did not show up.

Tonight President Salvador Sanchez Ceren went on national television and radio to announce what his government was doing to counter the gangs' actions.  The president started by saying that his government and the country's citizens would never bow to the wishes of the gangs.   He said the government was transferring to the country's maximum security prison gang leaders who allegedly had organized the action against the transport sector.   He said the police had arrested other gang members involved in threatening bus owners and in the murders of drivers.  

Sanchez Ceren reiterated that his government would not negotiate with the gangs.   Instead he vowed to pursue and jail criminals.   He announced that he would use as many troops as necessary to protect the transportation sector, and while the bus stoppage continued his government and other levels of government would look for ways to provide transport to people trying to get to work.