HomeNewsBriefEl Salvador is Most Violent Nation in Western Hemisphere
BRIEF

El Salvador is Most Violent Nation in Western Hemisphere

BARRIO 18 / 4 JAN 2016 BY ARRON DAUGHERTY EN

A perfect storm of gang atomization, internal clashes, and vigilantism made El Salvador the Western Hemisphere's bloodiest nation in 2015.

El Salvador ended the year with at least 6,640 murders, reported La Prensa Gráfica.

The grisly statistic represents close to a 70 percent increase over 2014 homicides and gives the country a homicide rate of 104.2 per 100,000 inhabitants, the report said. 

El Salvador makes up 13.6 percent of Central America's population, yet represents 35.3 percent of Central America's homicides, the report added. 

Speaking with Reuters, El Salvador's Forensic Medicine Director Miguel Fortín Magaña described national homicide figures as "truly pandemic." 

InSight Crime Analysis

Some authorities have been quick to blame homicides on violent competition between street gangs. And while gangs -- particularly El Salvador's two largest groups, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and the Barrio 18 -- are responsible for a significant portion of the violence, the situation is more complicated

To begin with, the gang violence is multi-layered, and in some ways the recent spike is related to a failed gang truce, initiated in 2012, between the MS13 and the two factions of the Barrio 18 -- the Revolucionarios and the Sureños. Initally, the truce led to falling murder rates. However, as is evident now, that may have been more about coercion than acceptance amongst the gangs' rank and file.  

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

After the truce unraveled, authorities moved imprisoned gang leaders who were mediating the talks back to maximum security prison, impeding their ability to command and creating an opening for mid-level gang members who were upset by the truce.

Following this shift, gangs appear to be fracturing into smaller, competing units and internal purges within the ranks have become a regular occurrence.

Gang cells, or cliques as they are known, are also making their own their decisions with regards to killings rivals and coordinating attacks against security forces, rather than waiting for the proverbial "green light" from the leadership in jail. 

Security forces have responded to the violence with heavy-handed tactics. The more extreme incidents have included reports of summary executions of suspected gang members, as well as allegations of security forces' participation in death squads

In a recent report, El Salvador's ombudsman said that security forces were linked to 90 percent of human rights abuse complaints and that a "ends justify the means" mentality exists within the police ranks.

Unfortunately the situation will likely continue for the foreseeable future. Citing police statistics, La Prensa Gráfica reported 72 murders within the first three days of 2016, including separate multiple homicides, and attacks on security forces and their families. 

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 / 22 MAR 2011

(Reprinted with permission from Southern Pulse.) The United States deported over 25,000 Salvadorians back to their home country…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 17 JAN 2018

Since 2014, there have been more firearm seizures than homicides committed with guns in Guatemala. Guatemala’s National Police (Policia Nacional…

HOMICIDES / 14 FEB 2011

As Mexican authorities go after the leaders of drug trafficking organizations, to decapitate and dismantle them, the patterns of violence…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…