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Salvador: war on crime

Monday, May 11, 2015

El Salvador will take an increasingly tough line on crime, following the country’s most violent month in ten years, according to sources close to the administration of President Salvador Sanchez.

Lack of security is one of the main reasons for which the economy of El Salvador is the worst performer in Central America.

As far as security measures are concerned, the Salvadoran army and police will have expanded powers to use force against gang members, according to informed reports.

Security forces since last January have been authorized to use force in confrontations with gang members, who have responded by increased levels of terror.

Last March, gangs murdered 481 people, compared to 230 in the same month a year earlier.

The hard-line approach follows the collapse last year of a 2012 truce with the country’s two main criminal groups, Barrio 18 and Salvatrucha, whose business has in recent years has focused on extortion and kidnappings, which affect tens of thousands of ordinary Salvadorans.

The gangs also participate in the transshipment of drugs – mainly cocaine – from South America to the United States.

A general in the the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front during the country’s civil war of the 1980s, Sanchez is no stranger to armed confrontation.

Meanwhile, the economy of El Salvador has during the past four years had the second slowest rate of growth in Latin America, with an average annual increase of 1.8%, trailed only by Venezuela.

Violence has in addition had a damaging effect on foreign investment, which last year was less than $100 million.