HomeNewsBriefEl Salvador Chips Away at Very High Homicide Rate
BRIEF

El Salvador Chips Away at Very High Homicide Rate

BARRIO 18 / 19 SEP 2016 BY SOFIA LIEMANN EN

The homicide rate in El Salvador showed improvement in the first half of September, continuing a steady decline in violent deaths seen over the past six months, though the country still has a long way to go to achieve murder rates in line with international norms.

The National Civil Police (Policia Nacional Civil - PNC) recorded 4,000 homicides from the beginning of the year through mid-September, 13.3 percent fewer than the same period in 2015, when 4,614 cases were registered, La Prensa Gráfica reported.

The newspaper reported an average of 10.9 homicides per day for the first 15 days of September as compared to an average of 15.4 per day so far in 2016. The 2016 daily average is lower than in 2015, a year that represented a spike in violent deaths as compared with 2014, with an average of 10.7 homicides a day, and 2013, when the rate was 6.9 per day.

The year 2016 started with a bang, with the 740 homicides in January reflecting a continuation of El Salvador's 2015 status as the most violent nation in the Western Hemisphere. The country had an overall homicide rate of 104.2 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2015. However, since April there has been a steady decrease in homicides.

The recent figures from the PNC also highlight a shift in the location of the homicides. Of the 4,000 killings registered so far in 2016, 59.1 percent occurred in rural areas.

InSight Crime Analysis

Any reduction in homicides is welcome in one of Latin America's most violent societies, and that there have been fewer murders is beyond dispute. How that improvement was achieved, however, is still a question of debate.

The government maintains that the lower homicide rate is a reflection of its hardline policies to combat the El Salvador's violent street gangs, and especially the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18.

The government instituted emergency measures in prisons aimed at isolating gang leaders being held in the facilities. El Salvador also dispatched joint units of the police and military to pursue gang cells, or cliques, in the Salvadoran countryside. President Salvador Sánchez Cerén has stated that these "extraordinary measures have helped in the last few months in the reduction of the number of homicides."

On the other hand, as El Faro reported, these same gangs have taken the credit for the reduction, claiming that it was due to the leaders ordering a stop to assassinations, which came at the end of March just before the homicide rate registered a dramatic decrease, from a daily average of 19.7 in March to one of 11.8 in April.

     SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles 

The apparent shift toward the countryside may support the gangs' claim that a lull in fighting between the MS13 and Barrio 18 is responsible for improved homicide rates. The two gangs have traditionally been mortal enemies and their turf wars over the country's most populous, low income, urban neighborhoods have been the main motor for murders in El Salvador.

There have also been signs of an increase in gang members being killed by the security forces, often in reported confrontations that end with very one-sided death tolls. Whether the apparent decrease in gang-on-gang murders is a product of a de facto truce between the gangs or of increased pressure from the police and military is unclear.

However, even with the reported reduction in homicides El Salvador remains one of the most violent countries in the world. The small Central American country still is a long way to go to achieve murder rates that approach international norms. 

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

EL SALVADOR / 16 JAN 2015

Several weeks after the El Salvador government announced it would not seek to restart talks of a truce between local…

EL SALVADOR / 13 SEP 2016

Normal 0 21 false false false FR X-NONE X-NONE A new report indicates that Central…

BARRIO 18 / 9 APR 2015

Homicide levels in El Salvador have slowly increased since the middle of 2013 and have reached levels similar to those…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

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.