HomeNewsBriefSpike in Attacks on Security Force Families as El Salvador Violence Declines
BRIEF

Spike in Attacks on Security Force Families as El Salvador Violence Declines

EL SALVADOR / 13 JUN 2017 BY TRISTAN CLAVEL EN

A wave of attacks against relatives of El Salvador's security forces serves as a reminder of gangs' willingness and ability to use targeted violence, but the spike in these killings contrasts with an overall trend of decreasing homicides in the Central American country.

Three relatives of security forces were killed in less than 48 hours between June 11 and June 12 in El Salvador, El Diario de Hoy reported.

This brings to eight the total number of relatives of security forces killed in similar attacks this month, according to La Prensa Gráfica, which also includes the killing of a former soldier in its body count.

According to the two news outlets, the wave of targeted killings is the second phase of a retaliation plan by the MS13 street gang, in response to extraordinary prison measures implemented in April 2016 that toughened incarceration conditions for the gang's leaders and members.

In April 2017, a year after the implementation of these measures, reports had surfaced of an internal document from El Salvador's armed forces warning its members of upcoming MS13 attacks.

According to El Diario de Hoy, the document warned that MS13 leaders "have given orders to the members of that structure so that, between May 7 and May 10, 2017, they execute 'Plan Bitter Tears' against members of the armed forces, National Civil Police and the Central Administration of Prison Centers; likewise, so that from June 2017, they execute 'Plan Orphan Children,' against the same targets and their relatives."

Authorities have so far refused to confirm the authenticity of this document or publicly acknowledge the correlation between the wave of killings and the alleged MS13 plan. But the latter remains the investigators' working theory, and internal warnings have been released for the police to stay alert, according to La Prensa Gráfica.

The wave of targeted killings comes amid a spike in overall violence in El Salvador. The country suffered 137 murders during just the first 12 days of June, according to El Diario de Hoy, with particularly bloody days such as June 9 and June 11 witnessing as many as 25 killings.

InSight Crime Analysis

The MS13's apparently coordinated attacks against family members of security forces is a reminder that the gang retains the capacity to launch violent and targeted campaigns, despite the state's heavy-handed policies aimed at disrupting the gang's operations. However, it is unlikely that these attacks forshadow an imminent return to the severe levels of violence that made El Salvador the most murderous country in the region in 2015.

El Salvador has repeatedly suffered from short spikes in homicides linked to temporary escalations in gang-related violence. In November last year, for instance, El Salvador's government accused the MS13 of orchestrating a wave of police killings that prompted a response in kind by security forces.

SEE ALSO: InDepth Coverage of Homicides

There is always the latent risk that sporadic outbreaks of violence constitute early warnings of a resurgence of high homicide rates. But El Salvador has maintained a trend of decreasing homicides so far this year. According to authorities, El Salvador saw 1,405 murders during the first five months of 2017. This constitutes a nearly 100 percent reduction in comparison to the same period last year, during which 2,724 homicides were recorded.

And despite the recent wave of attacks against relatives of the security forces, it also appears that the intensity of the conflict between gangs and security forces may be declining. So far this year, only eight police officers have been killed and only two soldiers had been reported murdered by mid-May. Last year saw a total of 62 police officers and 22 soldiers killed in reported confrontations with gang members, according to La Prensa Gráfica.

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

ELITES AND CRIME / 21 JUL 2020

The creation of a new anti-corruption office in Guatemala has raised questions about whether the body will have any teeth,…

BARRIO AZTECA / 3 JUL 2018

The recent arrest of a top Barrio Azteca leader in Mexico offers additional insight into the criminal and drug trafficking…

BRAZIL / 25 SEP 2013

Off-duty military police in São Paulo killed more people in the first seven months of 2013 than in the same…

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.