HomeNewsBriefEl Salvador Police, Govt Can't Agree on Identities of Murder Victims
BRIEF

El Salvador Police, Govt Can't Agree on Identities of Murder Victims

BARRIO 18 / 16 SEP 2015 BY ARRON DAUGHERTY EN

Statistics from El Salvador's National Civil Police (PNC) continue to contradict government assertions that the majority of the nation's homicide victims are gang members, raising concerns authorities may be prioritizing their own political standing above security and justice. 

Citing police statistics, Spanish news agency EFE reported 27.8 percent of murder victims in El Salvador during the first eight months of 2015 were gang members. Similarly, El Diario de Hoy recently found that police identified just 24 percent of all homicide victims during the second half of August as either gang members or associated with gangs. 

These figures run counter to the government narrative that the majority of El Salvador's murders are gang-related. High-level security officials have said that about 85 percent of all homicide victims in August were gang members. 

"They're killing each other off," Deputy Security Minister Juan Javier Martinez was quoted by EFE as saying. He went on to say deaths should be expected as security forces confront the gangs. 

This is not the first time police data on homicides has contradicted government assertions. In July, police reports obtained by El Faro said 30 percent of murder victims were gang members, yet Security Minister Benito Lara stated the percentage of gang-related deaths was double the police figure.  

InSight Crime Analysis

Properly identifying murder victims is a difficult and resource-intensive process. Labeling the majority of murders as gang-related is politically expedient, since it implies that the victims were involved in criminal activity and thus partly to blame for their own deaths.

However, there are a number of risks involved with this. By writing off killings as gang-on-gang violence, the government is let off the hook from conducting a proper murder investigation, decreasing the likelihood that perpetrators will ever be brought to justice and fomenting an environment of lawlessness.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

Additionally, saying gang members are the overwhelming victims -- and victimizers -- of violent crime fosters greater acceptance of militarized crime-fighting strategies. Salvadoran security officials have taken an increasingly hardline approach to combating the gangs, as clashes between security forces and criminals continue to rise. While the gangs are undoubtedly principal drivers of the violence, this emphasis by authorities draws attention away from other security concerns affecting the general population.

Finally, labeling victims as gang members carries a huge social stigma that is difficult to shake once it has been applied. Mano Dura ("Iron Fist") security policies have previously led to the mass incarceration of gang members in not only El Salvador, but Guatemala and Honduras as well. 

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 / 7 NOV 2014

An article on sexual violence and femicide in El Salvador demonstrates the alarming extent to which gang members use rape…

BARRIO 18 / 12 AUG 2014

El Salvador's president has launched a community police force in capital San Salvador, a move that is in line with…

BARRIO 18 / 8 APR 2013

Over 80 percent of homicides in Guatemala take place in just 25 of the country's 334 municipalities, according to President…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…

THE ORGANIZATION

Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…