SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - El Salvador’s government on Wednesday said it would charge gang members who attack police and military personnel under anti-terrorism laws, which impose longer prison sentences, to crack down on rising homicides in the poor Central American nation.
Justice Minister Ricardo Perdomo blamed a faction of the country’s Barrio 18 gang for ordering attacks against government troops, saying there had been 60 so far this year.
“These criminal plans have produced a higher level of murders and a chain reaction of vengeance and violence that requires a unified and coordinated response from the state,” Perdomo said.
Terrorism charges carry maximum penalties of up to 60 years, compared to up to 20 years for homicide or up to 50 years for aggravated homicide.
A truce between the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang and rival Barrio 18 had cut the murder rate in El Salvador down to a 10-year low in mid-2013, but homicides started climbing again. Murders rose 44 percent in the first three months of 2014 compared to the first part of 2013.
Reporting by Hugo Sanchez. Writing by Michael O'Boyle; Editing by Cynthia Osterman