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El Salvador Passes 5,000-Murder Mark for Second Straight Year

LADB Article ID: 80168
Category/Department: El Salvador
Date: 2017-01-05
By: Benjamin Witte-Lebhar

Although down from the record tally of 2015, El Salvador’s horrific homicide numbers continue to tell the sad story of a country caught in the crossfire between rival street gangs, state security forces, and shadowy vigilante groups.The Policía Nacional Civil (PNC), the national police force, puts the 2016 murder total at 5,278, a 20% decrease from the previous year, when more than 6,660 people were killed. The 2015 figure was the highest since the end of El Salvador’s civil war (1980-1992), which claimed an estimated 75,000 lives and left another 8,000 missing. Overall, more than 14,000 people have been murdered since President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, a guerrilla commander during the war, took office in June 2014. The Sánchez Cerén administration sees the homicide drop as evidence that the “extraordinary measures” it is taking to combat gangs, known locally as maras or pandillas, are paying dividends. Not everyone is as encouraged by the trajectory of the “crime war”––to borrow a term used by author Ioan Grillo in his recent book “Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields and the New Politics of Latin America”––as the Sánchez Cerén administration professes to be. For one thing, more than a few observers point out, last year’s improved murder numbers are good news only in comparison to the 2015 statistics.

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