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Conflict Between Rival Gangs, Police Produces War-Like Casualty Numbers in El Salvador

ISSN:1089-1560
LADB Article ID: 79712
Category/Department: El Salvador
Date: 2015-07-30
By: Benjamin Witte-Lebhar

A surge in El Salvador’s already ghastly homicide numbers has sent the government of President Salvador Sánchez Cerén scrambling for solutions and prompted more than a few mentions of "war" as observers struggle to make sense of the Central America nation’s unraveling security situation. Violent crime, driven in large part by powerful street gangs known as maras or pandillas, is a perennial problem in El Salvador, which routinely ranks as one of the world’s most murderous noncombat countries (NotiCen, June 30, 2011). In the last decade—not counting 2012 and 2013, when an experimental gang truce led to a significant drop in killings—the country averaged close to 3,900 murders per year, nearly 23 times the number killed annually in the US state of Massachusetts, which is roughly the same size as El Salvador, in both surface area and population. El Salvador’s "normal" homicide rate, therefore, is between 300 and 350 per month, which is why the body count so far this year is all the more astonishing. In March, 482 people were murdered, making it the deadliest single month in more than a decade, the Instituto de Medicina Legal (IML), a branch of the Corte Suprema de Justicia (CSJ), reported.

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