HomeNewsBriefDid El Salvador's 'Iron Fist' Lower Homicide Rate?
BRIEF

Did El Salvador's 'Iron Fist' Lower Homicide Rate?

BARRIO 18 / 13 JUN 2016 BY LUIS FERNANDO ALONSO EN

El Salvador officials have attributed a steady decline in the violence-wracked country’s homicide rate to the government’s crackdown on gangs, but it is too early to confirm this causal relationship or to determine whether the improvement will endure.

Howard Coto, director of the National Civil Police (Policia Nacional Civil- PNC) announced the lower homicide rates in a June 7 press conference.

Coto said homicides dropped from an average 23.8 per day in January to a daily average of 11.3 in May. Homicides declined gradually over the first five months of the year, registering a rate of 22.9 per day in February, 19.7 in March, and 11.7 in April. He added that figures for the first week of June indicated the drop is set to continue, with an average of 7 per day.

La Prensa Grafica reported the total number of homicides for the first five months of 2016 at 2,705. The trend for the year so far represents a dramatic reversal from the upwards trend registered from the beginning of 2015, which saw the daily homicide average increase from 10.8 in January to 20.7 in May. 

16-06-13SALhomicide

The lower homicide statistics come as El Salvador continues to push its “Mano Dura” (Iron Fist) security policies. At the beginning of April, the government enacted a package of "extraordinary measures"  designed to combat the country's powerful "mara" street gangs, most notably the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18. The measures target the ability of imprisoned gang leaders to effectively operate from behind bars.

Additionally, the government has created a new anti-gang rapid response force, passed legal reforms that reclassify gang crimes as terrorism, and recently announced the deployment of 400 additional armed forces reservists to tackle insecurity in capital city San Salvador.

Minister of Security Mauricio Ramirez Landaverde said the new security measures have directly contributed to the lower homicide rate, La Prensa Grafica reported.

InSight Crime Analysis

While lower homicide trends are a positive sign, the overall security situation in El Salvador remains dire. The country is still wracked by criminal violence, and it is unclear how effective the government’s hardline approach to the issue has been.

The militarization of the gang conflict has also lead to concerns about human rights violations, as lopsided body counts are reported in what security forces describe as clashes with criminal gangs.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

The most dramatic decrease in daily homicide rates actually came in April after gang leaders themselves ordered their members to stop the killing in an unsuccessful attempt to dissuade the government from enacting the extraordinary measures. In subsequent public statements representatives of the gangs have taken credit for the lower murder rate and threatened to step up their violence if the government persists with its hard line.

However, the jury is still out on precisely what has caused the daily murder rate to fall and whether or not the reduced rate will hold.   

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 / 28 MAY 2013

At least 470,000 people in El Salvador have links to gangs, according to government calculations, highlighting how deeply gangs have…

CHEPE DIABLO / 25 APR 2014

El Salvador's attorney general is taking the Al Capone route to nailing the Texis Cartel by charging the drug trafficking…

CARIBBEAN / 2 JAN 2013

At least 290 people were killed by police in the Dominican Republic in 2012, amidst a backdrop of declining…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…