El Salvador gang truce wobbles as violent murders mount

SAN SALVADOR Fri Jul 5, 2013 10:37pm EDT

Family members hug as they look at the body of a dead man at a crime scene in Quetzaltepeque, on the outskirts of San Salvador July 5, 2013. REUTERS/Ulises Rodriguez

Family members hug as they look at the body of a dead man at a crime scene in Quetzaltepeque, on the outskirts of San Salvador July 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Ulises Rodriguez

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SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - El Salvador has seen a burst of violence, with 103 homicides this week, the government said on Friday, as a year-long truce between the country's violent gangs appeared to be crumbling.

The uptick in murders in the Central American nation echoes killing rates before the March 2012 truce between the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang and rival Barrio 18.

"We said last year that the truce was fragile and that it could fracture in any moment. Time has proven us right," Miguel Fortin, Director of the Supreme Court's Institute of Legal Medicine (IML) told local media.

The truce, which is backed by the Catholic Church and the Organization of American States (OAS), aimed to reducing homicide rates of 66 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2011, according to the United Nations, making El Salvador the world's most violent nation.

The unprecedented truce helped bring murders down to an average of five per day from 12 before the agreement. But killings have been rising since late May, with murders averaging 16 per day in early July.

(Reporting by Nelson Renteria, Writing by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Philip Barbara)

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