HomeNewsBriefEl Salvador Forces Kill 346 Gang Members This Year
BRIEF

El Salvador Forces Kill 346 Gang Members This Year

BARRIO 18 / 1 JUN 2016 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

El Salvador's police reportedly killed 346 gang members in violent confrontations so far this year, once again raising concerns that the country's bellicose security strategy is leading to widespread human rights abuses.

Howard Cotto, director of El Salvador's National Civil Police (Policía Nacional Civil - PNC), said police supported by soldiers killed the 346 suspected gang members in an equal number of confrontations since the beginning of 2016, reported El Mundo. That averages out to 2.2 confrontations -- and slain gang members -- per day.

Cotto did not specify how many members of the security forces died in those confrontations. However other reports indicate that suspected gang members had killed a total of 16 police officers by April 12 of this year, and many of those officers were killed while off duty, outside of the operations referenced by the police director. 

The number of confrontations have increased in recent weeks following the deployment of combined police and military forces in a special unit tasked with hunting down gang members who have reportedly moved to rural areas to avoid tightened security in major cities. Most of the confrontations Cotto referred to have taken place in rural areas, El Mundo reported.

InSight Crime Analysis

The large number of gang members killed and the disproportionately low number of officers being shot in those operations raises serious questions about the circumstances in which the deaths occurred. Across Latin America, from Mexico to Venezuela and Brazil, the term "confrontation" is used to explain lopsided body counts and cover up human rights abuses by the security forces. 

The government's ongoing crackdown has raised similar concerns about El Salvador, where there are already well-documented cases of extrajudicial killings by police officers. In a March 2015 case, PNC officers reported having killed eight criminals in an exchange of gunfire at a coffee farm known as San Blas. An investigation by Salvadoran news outlet El Faro found that the "criminals," who included a woman and two minors, had been summarily executed and that their bodies had been repositioned to support the police's version of events. 

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

Salvadoran officials' militarization of the fight against gangs, both materially and rhetorically, may be contributing to more aggressive action by an emboldened public force. In January 2015, for example, then-PNC Director -- and current Security minister -- Mauricio Ramirez Landaverde told his officers they should feel "complete confidence" when using their weapons against criminals. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BARRIO 18 / 1 OCT 2020

For San Salvador resident Humberto Reyes, a sunny morning in the Historic Center’s sprawling markets began with two shots in…

EL SALVADOR / 13 SEP 2017

Authorities in Central America have arrested hundreds of suspected gang members in recent days during coinciding operations, but their willingness to…

ARGENTINA / 10 JUL 2017

An Argentine security official claims interdiction efforts against fluvial and land-based trafficking have spurred a sharp rise in drug flights.

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Combating Environmental Crime in Colombia

15 JUN 2021

InSight Crime presented findings from an investigation into the main criminal activities fueling environmental destruction in Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Collaborating on Citizen Security Initiatives

8 JUN 2021

Co-director Steven Dudley worked with Chemonics, a DC-based development firm, to analyze the organization’s citizen security programs in Mexico.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Deepens Its Connections with Universities

31 MAY 2021

A partnership with the University for Peace will complement InSight Crime’s research methodology and expertise on Costa Rica.

THE ORGANIZATION

With Support from USAID, InSight Crime Will Investigate Organized Crime in Haiti

31 MAY 2021

The project will seek to map out Haiti's principal criminal economies, profile the specific groups and actors, and detail their links to elements of the state.

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.