Police Commander Howard Cotto, c/o El Diario de Hoy

El Salvador officials have attributed a steady decline in the violence-wracked country’s homicide rate to the government’s crackdown on gangs, but it is too early to confirm this causal relationship or to determine whether the improvement will endure.

Howard Coto, director of the National Civil Police (Policia Nacional Civil- PNC) announced the lower homicide rates in a June 7 press conference.

Coto said homicides dropped from an average 23.8 per day in January to a daily average of 11.3 in May. Homicides declined gradually over the first five months of the year, registering a rate of 22.9 per day in February, 19.7 in March, and 11.7 in April. He added that figures for the first week of June indicated the drop is set to continue, with an average of 7 per day.

La Prensa Grafica reported the total number of homicides for the first five months of 2016 at 2,705. The trend for the year so far represents a dramatic reversal from the upwards trend registered from the beginning of 2015, which saw the daily homicide average increase from 10.8 in January to 20.7 in May. 

16-06-13SALhomicide

The lower homicide statistics come as El Salvador continues to push its “Mano Dura” (Iron Fist) security policies. At the beginning of April, the government enacted a package of "extraordinary measures"  designed to combat the country's powerful "mara" street gangs, most notably the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18. The measures target the ability of imprisoned gang leaders to effectively operate from behind bars.

Additionally, the government has created a new anti-gang rapid response force, passed legal reforms that reclassify gang crimes as terrorism, and recently announced the deployment of 400 additional armed forces reservists to tackle insecurity in capital city San Salvador.

Minister of Security Mauricio Ramirez Landaverde said the new security measures have directly contributed to the lower homicide rate, La Prensa Grafica reported.

InSight Crime Analysis

While lower homicide trends are a positive sign, the overall security situation in El Salvador remains dire. The country is still wracked by criminal violence, and it is unclear how effective the government’s hardline approach to the issue has been.

The militarization of the gang conflict has also lead to concerns about human rights violations, as lopsided body counts are reported in what security forces describe as clashes with criminal gangs.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

The most dramatic decrease in daily homicide rates actually came in April after gang leaders themselves ordered their members to stop the killing in an unsuccessful attempt to dissuade the government from enacting the extraordinary measures. In subsequent public statements representatives of the gangs have taken credit for the lower murder rate and threatened to step up their violence if the government persists with its hard line.

However, the jury is still out on precisely what has caused the daily murder rate to fall and whether or not the reduced rate will hold.   

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power. In rural sectors, uniformed BACRIM armed with assault rifles still patrol in...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy. Unlike their paramilitary and drug cartel predecessors, the BACRIM maintain a diversified...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.