El Salvador Disappearances Down From Post-Gang Truce Peak

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Newly reported statistics from El Salvador’s National Civil Police indicate that disappearances have declined from a peak reached in 2014 after the dissolution of a controversial gang truce, raising questions about the relationship between the truce and the rate of disappearances.

According to a September 15 article from El Diario de Hoy, police recorded 838 disappearances between January 1 and July 19 of this year. That figure represents an average of around 129 disappearances per month.

Men made up the majority of the victims, with 569 cases representing nearly 70 percent of the total. Young people under the age of 30 were also particularly affected, with 530 cases representing nearly two-thirds of the total.

Police statistics available through the government’s online transparency portal (pdf) show that the monthly average of disappearances grew steadily from 2011 through 2014, when they reached a peak average of more than 187 per month.

Since then, disappearances appear to have been in gradual decline. From January to September 2015, police recorded an average of about 159 per month, and roughly 129 per month were recorded through July of this year. (See InSight Crime’s graphic below)

16-09-16-ElSalvador-Graph

InSight Crime Analysis

Some experts have argued that disappearances increased during the government-brokered gang truce between April 2012 and June 2013 as a result of gangs seeking to cover up evidence of ongoing murders that would have violated the terms of the pact. Homicides did appear to decrease during the truce, but Salvadoran security officials have publicly disagreed about whether that drop was related to the rise in disappearances.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of El Salvador Gang Truce

The available numbers appear to show that while disappearances did increase during the truce, the monthly average continued to rise the following year. Moreover, the average of 159 disappearances recorded monthly by the police in 2015 remained above the monthly average of 148 disappearances recorded during the 16 months the truce was in effect.

However, there are numerous issues with the accuracy of the Salvadoran government’s disappearance statistics that make it difficult to draw solid conclusions based on the numbers alone. It is possible that other, less-understood factors contributed to the rise and gradual decline in the number of reported disappearances in recent years.

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