With 65 murders registered in just eight days in May, El Salvador may be witnessing a wave of violence that could further shake the foundations of the country's much-praised gang truce.
The killings pushed the daily average number of murders to 8.1, compared with a rate of 5.8 for January through March, according to National Police figures.
A number of deaths appeared related to gang violence, including a body in San Salvador that displayed signs of torture, reported El Mundo. Other murder victims were presented as alleged gang members, according to Salvadoran media.
Security Minister David Munguia Payes denied that the rise in homicides represented a trend.
These reports of increased violence accompanied the signing of a new pact in Nueva Concepcion municipality, which gang leaders and mediators declared to be the ninth "violence-free" district in the country. The establishment of these so-called "peace zones" represents the next stage of the truce, first brokered between the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 gangs in March 2012.
A day before the ceremonies in Nueva Concepcion,Attorney General Luis Martinez criticized the gang pact, stating, "This false truce does not really exist, because every day it is demonstrated that there continue to be victims in our country."
InSight Crime Analysis
One of the key successes of the truce has been the approximate halving of El Salvador's murder rate. However, the spate of violence in May is just the latest development that casts doubt on the truce's effectiveness, along with a reported increase in extortion and a rise in "disappeared" victims. Critics have also said that the truce provides gangs with political leverage -- they will keep violence low so long as the government cooperates with them.
Despite these concerns that the truce may not be sustainable in the long run, the process continues to move forward. The implementation of the latest peace zone in Nueva Concepcion is one sign that the government intends to continue expanding its role in what was once a very secretive process.