HomeNewsBrief'3 to 4' Gun Battles a Day: El Salvador Police Chief
BRIEF

'3 to 4' Gun Battles a Day: El Salvador Police Chief

BARRIO 18 / 15 FEB 2016 BY ELISE DITTA EN

El Salvador police reported that there have been close to 100 gun battles between security forces and street gangs in 2016, signaling a continued increase in violence in what is beginning to resemble a low-intensity civil war.

At a graduation for police sergeants, National Civil Police (Policía Nacional Civil - PNC) Chief Howard Cotto stated, "We have seen three to four cases [of confrontations] a day in the last two months," reports El Mundo

This would represent an increase in gun battles from last year when between January to May 2015, there were approximately 250 armed encounters, or about two a day.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

Cotto mentioned various battles, including two shootouts that resulted in eight deaths in Apastepeque, San Vicente, and a police chase that left four people dead in Zaragoza, La Libertad, a case that is being scrutinized by El Faro.

InSight Crime Analysis

With the highest homicide rate in the world and security force-illegally armed group confrontation rates at levels similar to Colombia and Mexico, El Salvador resembles a low-intensity civil war.

Authorities blame most of the increased homicides on intra- and inter-gang violence. But they blame the increased battles between gangs and security forces on gang aggressiveness towards them. Unconfirmed reports in 2015, for instance, stated that members of some factions of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) had been ordered to kill security forces. And factions of the Barrio 18 have ambushed police

SEE ALSO: MS13 News and Profile

Salvadoran authorities have responded by declaring war on the gangs, and in 2015, then Police Director Mauricio Ramírez Landaverde -- who is now the government's minister of security -- told law enforcement officers they had a green light to shoot gang members if they felt threatened in any way.

Some analysts question whether gun battle reports are accurate, and accuse police of excessive force. For example, in the Zaragoza case, El Faro reports that the alleged gang members had surrendered before being shot by police and at least one of those killed had nothing to do with the gangs.

This is not the first accusation of human rights violations by security forces. The Salvadoran ombudsman reported that 92 percent of human rights complaints he had received from June 2014 to May 2015 were against security forces.

Police themselves are quitting in record numbers because of violence and dismal labor conditions. The government has responded by sending military forces to conflictive neighborhoods, but they are also demanding higher salaries and better equipment in return for increased deployments in the war against street gangs.

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 / 16 MAR 2012

The chief of the US Southern Command has suggested a growing interest in combating Central American criminal groups, though it’s…

BARRIO 18 / 11 JAN 2012

El Salvador saw a huge number of disappearances in 2011, with capital San Salvador alone registering more than 2,000 missing…

DISPLACEMENT / 23 JUN 2014

Violence from organized crime groups is forcibly displacing hundreds of thousands of people in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries…

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.