El Salvador gang members hand in weapons as part of the truce.

After falling dramatically in the wake of the gang truce, El Salvador's homicide rate began to rise again in May and June, sparking concerns about the sustainability of the truce between the country's two main gangs, Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13).

According to police officials, El Salvador had 182 murders in June 2013, up from 166 in the same month in 2012, reported La Prensa Grafica. June also saw an increase of 12 murders from the month before.

During the first half of 2013, the country had 1,045 homicides, down from 1,562 during the same period in 2012. Violence began decreasing in February, hitting a low in April before beginning to rise again in May.

The uptick in homicides in June has caused concern among Salvadoran authorities and led to a meeting between officials from the Ministry of Justice and Public Security and the National Civil Police (PNC) on June 29. Officials were particularly alarmed by the violence during the last weekend in June, which seemed to recall the days prior to the maras' gang truce: 32 homicides were registered between Friday and Sunday.

InSight Crime Analysis

Even with the rise registered in May and June, El Salvador's murder rate for the first half of 2013 represents a significant improvement compared to the previous year; prior to the truce in 2012, the country experienced an average of 14 homicides a day.

However, despite the overall improvement that has been seen this year, the two-month pattern of increasing homicides, coupled with other disturbing trends such as a rise in extortion and disappearances, may undermine both public and institutional faith in the truce. Many in El Salvador, including critical civil society actors such as the Catholic Church, have already expressed skepticism about the future of the truce due to the government's lack of transparency about the negotiations and the exact terms of the gang agreement.

Until now, the government has been able to point to the drop in murders as proof that the truce is working. If homicide rates continue to rise over the next few months the process could find itself in serious trouble.

Investigations

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

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

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...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

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...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

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.

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right...

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...