Gang-perpetrated violence accounts for two-thirds of homicides in El Salvador, according to numbers from the Attorney General's Office, but the government data is confusing and does not tell the whole story.
El Salvador’s Attorney General’s Office has announced the results of a year-end analysis on crime, stating that 65 percent of homicides in 2015 were committed by gang members, reported La Prensa Grafica.
The data from the Attorney General's Office also pointed to the enormous growth of violence and criminal activity over the past year. In comparison to 2014, this year saw a 74 percent rise in homicides.
El Salvador has now surpassed Honduras in terms of violence, stated El Diario de Hoy, with a rate of 90 homicides for every 100,000 citizens.
The report also highlighted the rise in "multiple homicides," cases in which there are two or more victims. Since last year, the number of multiple homicides rose almost 200 percent, up to 450 cases in 2015.
InSight Crime Analysis
The attorney general’s emphasis on the gang-related violence is not surprising. The government has taken a hard-line against gangs, and put them front and center in its fight against crime.
However, the data eminating from the government is also a little unclear. In November, a police study suggested that nearly 70 percent of murder victims in El Salvador had no gang connections. This subverted the government's traditional narrative that most of the country's violence is related to conflicts between gangs, and does not affect civilians for the most part.
What's more, police and other suspected vigilante groups are have been connected to massacres of suspected gang members and civilians. And many analysts have noted an uptick in that type of violence as well.
SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles
Nevertheless, the numbers from both the police and the attorney general suggests that gang violence is having an increasingly wide impact. Alongside civilian casualties, gang violence has increasingly targeted police, military and public security forces, as the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) street gang seeks to gain further control of drug trafficking operations, according to a recent Center for Strategic & International Studies report.
Gang violence against security forces has also increased, as the MS13 and rival gang the Barrio 18 have allegedly ramped up efforts to pressure the government to restore the 2012 truce and reduce anti-gang initiatives. All of these factors put together have contributed to levels of violence not seen since El Salvador’s civil war in the 1980s.