Murders in El Salvador fell by 4% in 2013

El Salvador's overall 2013 homicide rate fell slightly in comparison to 2012, but the steady rise of recent months has continued in 2014, undermining the gains made as a result of the truce between the country's main gangs.

According to figures released by El Salvador's forensic institute Medicina Legal (IML) there were a total of 2,492 murders in the country in 2013, at an average of 6.83 murders per day. This represents a 4 percent drop on 2012, when IML recorded a total of 2,594 murders, and a daily average murder rate of 7.11, reported El Mundo.

The majority of victims were between 15 and 39 years old, with 2,261 men and 218 women murdered. Firearms were used in 1,666 murders.

Despite the slight drop in 2013 numbers, the year ended with a rising homicide rate, as December saw 208 murders, compared with 168 in the same month in 2012. This spike has continued in 2014, with 89 murders registered in the first ten days of January -- an average of 9.4 per day. This past weekend alone saw 21 murders, reported El Diario de Hoy.

At this rate, this month's murder numbers are set to significantly surpass those of January 2013, when a total of 196 murders were committed, at an average of 6.3 per day.

InSight Crime Analysis

Last year marked the second straight year El Salvador saw a drop in homicides. Although not nearly as dramatic as the drop between 2011 and 2012, this trend is still largely attributable to the truce between the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18 street gangs.

However, while the murder rate from January to April of 2013 was 45 percent lower than in 2012, it began increasing in May and June and has crept upwards ever since, fuelling skepticism about the sustainability of the truce. The gains seen under the truce were further undermined in December with the discovery of mass graves possibly linked to gang violence, raising questions as to the true number of murders committed.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives and Negatives

While it is difficult to say with any certainty what is causing the gangs to return to violence, officials have expressed to InSight Crime there is not only an increase in fighting between gangs, but also within gangs. Maintaining the truce has clearly placed a strain on gang cohesion and unity, especially as leaders in the jails gain the appearance of being some of the few beneficiaries of the pact with more visiting rights and better conditions in prisons.

Nonetheless, as InSight Crime has noted previously, violence levels should not be taken as the only measure of the success -- or failure -- of the truce.