Escalating Violence in El Salvador [October 22, 2015]   [open pdf - 124KB]

"During the first 10 months of 2015, El Salvador, a country with a population of 6.5 million people, recorded nearly 5,500 murders. As with Honduras and Guatemala, El Salvador has been dealing with high homicide levels and generalized crime committed by gangs, drug traffickers, and other criminal groups for decades. El Salvador has the highest concentration of gang members per capita in Central America; as a result, gangs are responsible for a higher percentage of homicides there than in neighboring countries. The largest and most violent gangs in El Salvador have origins in and ties with the United States. The 18th Street gang was formed in the Rampart section of Los Angeles in the 1960s by Mexican youth who were not accepted into existing Hispanic gangs. The MS-13 ('Mara Salvatrucha-13') was created during the 1980s by Salvadorans in Los Angeles who had fled the country's civil conflict. Both gangs later expanded their operations to Central America after many of their leaders were deported to the region in the 1990s. The homicide rate in El Salvador may exceed 90 per 100,000 in 2015, a level of violence--including massacres and killings of police--not seen since the country's civil conflict (1980-1992). Homicides escalated following the demise of a 2012 truce between the country's two largest gangs that had reduced murder levels. Post-truce, the gangs are more fragmented and powerful. The government has designed a holistic anti-crime policy, but lacks the funds to implement it. In the meantime, it has increased military involvement in anti-gang efforts and deemed gangs terrorists. U.S. security cooperation with El Salvador has increased, but the results have been minimal thus far. Gang-related crimes continue to drive internal displacement and illegal emigration."

Report Number:
CRS Insight, IN10382
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html
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