New El Salvador Govt Yet to Take Action as Homicides Rocket

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Homicides in El Salvador have risen by nearly 70 percent in the first half of 2014 as the country’s gang truce has slowly died, but the incoming government still has not announced a comprehensive security policy to tackle the post-truce challenges.

During a July 24 press conference, El Salvador’s national police announced that 2,098 people were murdered between January 1 and July 23 this year, compared to 1,235 in the same months in 2013, reported EFE. The country’s Security Ministry has said 80 percent of homicides were concentrated in 63 of the country’s 262 municipalities, reported El Mundo

According to National Police Director Mauricio Ramirez Landaverde, the country’s street gangs were the perpetrators of the bulk of homicides and also represented the majority of homicide victims, reported EFE

President Salvador Sanchez Ceren has now developed a draft security policy proposal aimed at addressing the violence and crime afflicting the country, aiding victims and strengthening institutions, according to EFE, but nearly two months after taking office has yet to publically present his government’s plans for security.  

InSight Crime Analysis

El Salvador has seen a large growth in monthly murders over the past year as the truce implemented between the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18 gangs in March 2012 — an effort backed by the government of former President Mauricio Funes — has gradually fallen apart. The truce was initially credited with nearly halving the country’s homicide rate. 

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

The new government is now faced with a conundrum: do they allow the broken initiative to linger on, or officially announce it’s over? So far, their answer has been muddled, although the signs are not positive for truce supporters. In June, the president claimed the country would “not make a truce with organized crime,” but Security Minister Benito Lara more recently told El Faro the government would not stand in the way of any gang negotiations. 

While Sanchez Ceren has announced the existence of a new security strategy, he is now nearly two months into his term without detailing any concrete actions to be taken. With the murder rate now reaching pre-truce levels, it is critical the government develop a plan for the post-truce era quickly or it may be drawn into a reactive security policy always playing catch up with events on the ground.

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