El Salvador records its first homicide-free day in 2 years
One person died of a violent crime every hour in January and February 2016, according to police statistics.
Intense violence has plagued the country for years.
The killings peaked in 2015 when El Salvador became the most violent country in the Western Hemisphere, with 103 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, according to InSight Crime, a foundation that studies organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean. There were 6,656 murders in the country that year, according to police statistics.
Venezuela was second, with 90 homicides per 100,000, followed by Honduras with 57 homicides per 100,000.
Competition between El Salvador’s two main armed street gangs contributed to the explosion of violence, according to InSight. The gangs are known as the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS13, and the 18th Street Gang, or Barrio 18.
Homicide levels also began rocketing upward following the breakdown of a truce between the rival gangs in 2012.
The US State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Diplomacy called El Salvador’s crime rating “critical” in a 2016 report.
“Crime can run the gamut from credit card skimming to homicide and is unpredictable, gang-centric, and characterized by violence directed against both known victims and targets of opportunity,” the report said.
“El Salvador has hundreds of gang ‘cliques.’ Violent, well-armed street gangs … concentrate on narcotics, extortion, arms trafficking, murder for hire, carjacking, and aggravated street crime. … Many of the gangs are comprised of unemployed youth who do not hesitate to use deadly force when perpetrating crimes.”
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