El Salvador saw an average of five murders a day in April, according to police statistics, down 58 percent from the same month last year, as a ceasefire between rival gangs apparently continues to hold.

Killings in El Salvador sharply declined from March 9. Before this date, the average for 2012 stood at 13 to 14 murders a day, representing a drop of more than 60 percent.

In the days leading up to March 9, the authorities moved some 30 gang leaders to lower security prisons, followed by an immediate decline in killings. News website El Faro reported that the transfer was part of a deal between the government and the gang leaders to cut violence, which was quickly denied by the authorities. Days later, Bishop Fabio Colindres came forward to say that the Church had negotiated a truce between the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18, but had not offered any concessions to the gangs. According to the official account, the transfers were made to allow the leaders to more easily communicate the order to halt killings to their subordinates on the outside.

After the announcement of April's figures, Security Minister David Munguia Payes said that the truce had contributed to the decrease in murders, but the government's security strategy was the primary reason why violence is falling, reports La Prensa Grafica.

InSight Crime Analysis

Munguia has been reluctant to place too much emphasis on the ceasefire agreement, pointing out that "real results" against crime will come only as part of concerted government actions. These include a specialized anti-gang police unit made up of more than 300 officers which began operations last week, schemes to provide work for former gang members, and legal reform to make it easier for the authorities to prosecute and jail gang members.

The minister also argues that around half of the current killings are still carried out by gangs, explaining that the MS-13 and Barrio 18 still suffer from internal dissent, and that there are other gangs who have not been included in the truce.

He is right that the truce will need to be reinforced with broader measures -- its brokers have given no guarantees for how long the ceasefire will last, and killings could in theory resume at any moment. However, it appears that the reduction in murders to date is likely due almost entirely to the agreement, given that the other measures are all longer-terms projects that will take some time to have an impact.

Indeed, in a recent interview with La Prensa Grafica, the minister said that he expected to see results from the new police unit within six months. He said that within a month the unit would be expanded to 450 officers, including a section dedicated to intelligence and investigative work.

Munguia also said that the legal reforms they are currently working on include a provision for the authorities to declare targeted states of emergency. "The authorities should be provided with better tools," he said "What we have in El Salvador is not common crime, we are talking about well organized structures."

According to Munguia, there are some 60,000 gang members in the country, operating in half of all municipalities.

Investigations

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

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala is Central America’s most populous country and its largest economy. But an intransigent elite, an ambitious military and a weak state has opened the way for organized crime to flourish, especially since the return of democracy.

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Like any arm of the justice system, the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) had its battles with elites who used their charm and their muscle to try to influence what and who the celebrated commission...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

In the northwest corner of Guatemala, a little known criminal organization known as the "Huistas" dominates the underworld, in large part due its ties with businessmen, law enforcement officials and politicians.

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

On the morning of April 5, 1988, Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros left his palatial Tegucigalpa estate for a jog. Matta Ballesteros was wanted for murder, drug trafficking and other crimes in several countries, but in Honduras he felt safe. He regularly hosted parties for high-level officials at...

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

This project defines organized crime as: a structured group of people that associate on a regular and prolonged basis to benefit from illicit activities and illegal markets. This group can be local, national or transnational in nature, and its existence is maintained using violence and threats; corruption...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

As it tends to happen in Honduras, the news began as a well-heeled rumor: Javier Rivera Maradiaga, the oldest of the three Rivera Maradiaga brothers still alive and leader of the feared and powerful Honduran drug trafficking group known as the Cachiros, had handed himself in to...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Rodrigo Tovar Pupo never imagined it would come to this: dressed in an orange jumpsuit in a Washington DC courtroom and standing in front of a United States federal judge, the grandson of a wealthy Colombian cattle rancher and nephew to a governor was facing a possible...

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Organized crime is not an abstract concept for me. I grew up in Oak Park, a leafy suburb of Chicago with a population of about 60,000. In general, it was a very low crime city, which is perhaps why many mobsters made their homes there, among them...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

By the end of 1993, Pablo Escobar was cornered. The cocaine king -- known as "El Patrón" -- was running out of money and options. His top assassins were either dead or had turned themselves in. Almost all of the senior members of the Medellín Cartel were...