El Salvador heralds 1st murder-free day in nearly three years

SAN SALVADOR Sun Apr 15, 2012 7:07pm EDT

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SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - No one was murdered in El Salvador on Saturday, officials said, in what was the first homicide-free day in nearly three years for the Central American country plagued by violent drug gangs.

"After years when the number of murders reached alarming levels of up to 18 per day, we saw not one homicide in the country," President Mauricio Funes said in a statement released on Sunday. The murder-free day was the first recorded since leftist Funes took office in June 2009.

At the beginning of Funes' term, the country had an average of 12 murders a day, but that tally climbed closer to 18 per day in early 2012.

Rival gangs operating in El Salvador called a truce last month and bloodshed between the country's two most powerful gangs, Mara Salvatrucha and gang Mara 18, has abated.

According to United Nations data, El Salvador has recently tallied a homicide rate of 66 per 100,000 people, one of the highest in the world.

Much of that violence is blamed on Mexican drug cartels that use the country as a transit point.

Funes, who attended this weekend's Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, credited his government's security measures for the drop in violence.

Funes has recently ordered the military to pick up routine security duties.

(Reporting By Nelson Renteria; Editing by Stacey Joyce)

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