El Salvador marks grim milestone: its first murder-free day in nearly two years

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 January, 2017, 3:22pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 January, 2017, 3:22pm

El Salvador, one of the world’s most dangerous places, for the first time in nearly two years passed an entire day without a homicide.

The rare reprieve last Wednesday signalled a possible benefit from the recent truce between warring gangs. The country sees an average of 14.4 homicides a day.

El Salvador’s rate of 81 murders per 100,000 residents, on average, is more than 10 times worse than that of St. Louis, the USA’s deadliest city, which in 2014 recorded 8.8 murders per 100,000 residents, according to the FBI.

Chicago, which has made headlines over the past year for epidemic violence, saw 6.3 murders per 100,000 residents.

The last time El Salvador went a full day without any killings was January 22, 2015. Police said they’d already recorded 99 murders in the first 10 days of 2017, The New York Times reported.

While El Salvador’s homicide rate fell by almost one-fifth last year, the Central American nation is still one of the world’s most violent. President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a former guerrilla, took power in 2014 with the aim of confronting the gangs. Efforts were stepped up after a massacre last year, in which gang members used guns and machetes to slaughter 11 people.

A military counteroffensive has helped reduce killings, the government said, but three main gangs — the Mara Salvatrucha, Barrio 18 Revolucionarios and Barrio 18 Surenos — last March said the crackdown was unnecessary because they had agreed to a non-aggression pact

Howard Cotto, the director of the National Civil Police, said that violence had begun to decline last year: 2016 ended with 5,278 murders, 20 per cent fewer than in 2015.

The killings resumed on Thursday, police said, when two gunmen riding a motorcycle fatally shot an off-duty police officer north of the capital, San Salvador. Also, the owner of a San Salvador car wash was killed in a suburb. Police suspected that her death was related to extortion payments often demanded of business owners.