Why optimism is difficult

In the more than 14 years I have been writing this blog, the government approaches to gang-instigated crime and violence have always been characterized by hard-line repressive tactics which fall under the heading of "mano dura" or "hard fist."    There was only one period of difference, the so-called gang truce between 2012-2014 when a set of government actions and gang tactical decisions dramatically cut the murder rate in the country, but did not diminish the influence and control of the gangs.

Óscar Martínez, the gifted crime reporter for El Faro, has written about the government's approach to crime and violence since the end of the civil war in a piece in NACLA Report on the Americas titled How Not to Assemble a Country.  Martinez describes what happened as the gang truce crumbled in 2014:
However, 2014 was also an election year. And here we can identify another component of this manual on how not to assemble a country: the people of El Salvador, come hell or high water, despite what the murder rate tells them—and in spite of the past—continue to believe that violence and repression are the best way out. Salvadoran society has been shaped by gunshots and beatings. Decades of such actions have produced a violent society that no longer wants to see its victimizers, the gangs, arrested and tried but rather prefers that they are dead, strung up, with a gunshot to the head. 
The president and the party who brought him to power read survey results and learned that Salvadorans did not like the gang truce. They disliked it even though it had saved thousands of lives over the course of two years. And so the truce began to wear down. Strategies of repression, unwarranted arrests, police operations that turned into massacres of surrendered alleged gang members, all returned to the scene. Little by little, the government started to renege on its promises. 
But the gangs had learned a lesson too: corpses are political stock. More bodies, more attention. Fewer bodies, less attention. 
The streets of El Salvador turned into a morgue once again. In 2014, the murder rate surpassed 61. There were 1,420 more homicides that year than in 2013. But there was still political reconciliation between leaders. The pact had not been broken completely, although all signs suggested that its decomposition was inevitable. 
With the help of anti-truce rhetoric, the FMLN candidate, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, won the election. Sánchez Cerén took office on June 1, 2014. Soon after, he declared an end to the truce. And, without giving it a name, he launched the most violent and murderous repressive strategy that El Salvador has seen this century...... 
El Salvador does not learn from its past. This country, currently governed by ex-guerilla fighters who feared the repressive groups during the war because they tortured, killed, and raped, has created a repressive group that tortures, kills, and rapes. And all of this always against the poor, who later become the same people who flee and end up seeking refuge in Mexico, the United States, Belize, or Costa Rica.
Read the rest of the article here to get Martinez's take on the forces which have brought El Salvador to where it is today and why,tragically, it is so difficult to have much optimism for the future.