El Salvador Govt Blames Murder Spike on Anti-Gang Drive

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El Salvador has seen a spike in homicides this year, up to 13 per day compared to 11 per day in February 2011, which the government has blamed on a backlash by gangs against tough security policies.

Minister of Justice and Public Security David Munguia Payes acknowledged a “small spike” in murders, which he said was due to gangs responding to his tightened policies against crime, reports Prensa Grafica.

On Monday, Deputy Sergeant Juan Gilberto Landaverde was shot dead near his home in Apopa while on leave and dressed in civilian clothes. He is the sixth soldier to be assassinated so far this year.

InSight Crime Analysis

Mungia, who took office in November, has promised that he will resign if he does not manage to lower El Salvador’s murder rate by 30 percent within a year.

The retired general was appointed as part of President Mauricio Funes’ plans to implement tough new anti-gang policies, including a specialized police unit, and a proposed curfew to prevent young people being out on the streets at night. Munguia claims that 90 percent of all murders in the country are committed by gangs, although this is contradicted by figures from the police and other government agencies. The gangs with the biggest presence in the country are the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18.

The murder of Deputy Sergeant Gilberto adds weight to the police’s theory that El Salvador’s gangs may be carrying out a concerted attack against the security forces. El Diario de Hoy points out that the murders seem to be taking on a regular pattern, with a soldier killed each Monday so far in February.

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