HomeNewsBriefGovt and Gangs Claim Credit for Sharp Drop in El Salvador Murders
BRIEF

Govt and Gangs Claim Credit for Sharp Drop in El Salvador Murders

BARRIO 18 / 3 MAY 2016 BY ELYSSA PACHICO EN

El Salvador's government has claimed credit for a dramatic drop in homicides last month, but the country's powerful criminal gangs say they are behind the decrease in violence. 

April saw 352 people murdered in El Salvador at an average of approximately 11 homicides per day, according to police statistics. Overall, this represents a 42 percent drop from the total number of homicides registered in March, reported La Prensa Grafica.

As shown in the chart below, produced by investigative news outlet El Faro, not only is April the least violent month El Salvador has registered so far in 2016, it is also the least violent month since before March 2015.

16-05-03-ES-aprilhomicidechart

Source: El Faro

A top-level security official in El Salvador attributed the drop in homicides to measures taken by the government, in particular efforts to increase control in prisons where leaders of the "mara" street gangs the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18 are incarcerated, reported La Prensa Grafica. Meanwhile, El Salvador's head of police gave credit to the recent deployment of an elite Special Forces unit against the gangs.

InSight Crime Analysis

In recent months, violence in El Salvador has reached heights not seen since the country was at war. Given the political ramifications, it would be damaging for El Salvador's government to actually admit that they were not responsible for April's sudden drop in this violence, but there is a strong possibility that is the case.

It is unlikely the measures taken by the government would have had such a rapid and dramatic impact. While it is true that prisons play a central role in gang structures, even if the government has managed to sever communications between imprisoned leaders and members on the outside, local gang factions are independent enough not to shut down operations simply for a lack of orders from a centralized leadership. The new Special Forces unit, meanwhile, was only deployed towards the end of the month and realistically has not had the time to achieve such startling results.

SEE ALSO:  El Salvador News and Profiles

An alternative reason for the fall in violence can be found in the gangs' announcement they would order rank-and-file members to stop killings at the end of March. On April 18, gang leaders put out a statement attributing the fall in murders to this decision. "The numbers of killings in recent weeks show that we are men of their word and we deliver," it read.

Given the degree to which El Salvador's homicides fell during the government brokered truce that was launched in March 2012 and began to unravel towards the end of 2013, April's fall in violence may well be more proof that the gangs wield more influence over El Salvador's crime and violence levels than authorities.  

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 / 1 NOV 2016

El Salvador's Attorney General indicated that his office may investigate the recently revealed meetings between two high-level government officials and gang…

EL SALVADOR / 21 JUL 2011

El Salvador authorities announced that there were half as many reported kidnapping cases in the last 12 months, compared to…

HOMICIDES / 23 MAY 2011

Ahead of a May 20 trip to Ciudad Juarez, Mexican President Felipe Calderon took to his Twitter account…

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…