SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — Bus service returned to near normal in the Salvadoran capital Friday after being paralyzed for four days due to a string of deadly gang attacks on drivers and warnings to others to abandon their routes.
Heavily armed police and soldiers in military jeeps, some of them wearing masks, were deployed along main thoroughfares to keep guard.
Roberto Soriano, president of the Public Passenger Transportation Association, said 90 percent or more of buses were operating and service should be completely restored by Saturday.
"We have more buses now," said Estela Martinez, a 32-year-old resident from the north side of San Salvador. "This has been very serious. I hope (authorities) do not allow this to happen again."
Gangs had ordered buses off the streets and killed several drivers who did not comply, leading private bus operators to halt service. Soriano said eight drivers were slain.
Late Tuesday authorities arrested the leader of a gang believed to be responsible for the attacks and intimidation.
Transportation businessman Elizardo Lovo confirmed that his company had stopped driving because of gang threats, relayed through intermediaries, to kill drivers. He called it an attempt to pressure the government.
"What they want is for their leaders to get out of the maximum-security prison," Lovo told a local TV station.
Transportation union officials estimate that 4,500 of the capital's 5,000 buses were out of circulation in recent days, and Soriano said the sector took a $3.2 million hit from the stoppage.
Traffic flow appeared more or less as usual Friday, although some bus drivers confessed they fear further violence.
"I don't know why they take it out on us, if the owners pay the rent," said driver Manuel Castillo, referring to weekly extortion payments demanded by gangs.
Castillo said he was returning to work "because I have to eat, and they told me the gangs won't kill us now."