El Salvador homicides jump 56 percent as gang truce unravels

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - Homicides in El Salvador jumped by 56 percent this year as a truce between its most powerful street gangs crumbled, authorities said on Tuesday.

The National Civil Police reported 3,875 homicides in total as of December 30, compared with 2,490 last year. Just this month, police said, there was an average of 12 homicides daily.

In a news conference, El Salvador’s police chief said the 2012 truce fell apart as turf wars escalated between the gangs.

“The groups which had opted last year to decrease (homicides) are doing the opposite this year. This is the main reason,” police chief Mauricio Ramirez Landaverde said.

The truce between the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and its rival gang Barrio 18 helped reduce the Central American nation’s murder rate in mid-2013 to around five per day, a 10-year low.

In February, two gang leaders said the truce was falling apart after the government stopped helping gang leaders in prison to communicate with members on the street.

The government, which said it was not involved in brokering the truce, blamed Barrio 18 for breaking the accord.

El Salvador is one of the world’s most violent countries, according to a United Nations report.

Reporting by Hugo Sanchez; Writing by Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein; editing by Gunna Dickson