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El Salvador

CrisisWatch El Salvador

Unchanged Situation

Under renewed state of emergency, authorities continued mass detentions campaign to address gang violence; economic outlook deteriorated. Legislative Assembly 25 May extended state of emergency, initially imposed in late March to deal with surge of gang violence, and approved $10 mn budget increase to Attorney General’s office for wiretapping. Authorities continued heavy crackdown to deal with gang violence. National Police 27 May said over 35,000 people arrested since 27 March; Attorney General 22 May said over 23,000 will remain in temporary detention while trials proceed. Security Minister 9 May said authorities released at least 168 wrongfully detained, while Central America University radio 17 May said 17 have died in custody. Human rights organisations continued to criticise crackdown; notably, NGO Cristosal raised concerns about almost 700 human rights violations by authorities, including numerous cases of arbitrary detentions, between 27 March and 24 May. Central America University polling institute 25 May released survey showing eight out of ten interviewees felt crime had decreased since state of exception, with 50% approving its extension. New evidence emerged about govt dealings with gangs. Media outlet El Faro 17 May published report with confession from high-ranking MS-13 gang members for killing at least 87 after fellow gang members were arrested late March; senior govt official admitted he released prominent MS-13 leader to illustrate commitment to talks. Meanwhile, country’s economic outlook worsened, driven by stark decrease in Bitcoin value, which country adopted as legal tender in 2021. Emerging Markets Bonds Index 16 May rated country’s bonds at over 24%, signalling increasing risk, while govt 8 May bought another 500 bitcoins despite drop in prices.

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Reports & Briefings

Virus-proof Violence: Crime and COVID-19 in Mexico and the Northern Triangle

Also available in Español

Miracle or Mirage? Gangs and Plunging Violence in El Salvador

Also available in Español

El Salvador’s Politics of Perpetual Violence

Also available in Español

Mafia of the Poor: Gang Violence and Extortion in Central America

Also available in Español

In The News

5 Sep 2020
The reduction of homicides [in El Salvador] seemed not to be due to government security strategy, but rather a gang decision. Washington Post

Tiziano Breda

Analyst, Central America
1 Mar 2018
Un pacto de Estado por la paz en El Salvador [entre el Partido FMLN y Arena que] suponga un compromiso con los cinco ejes del Plan El Salvador Seguro [es un paso indispensable]. El Faro

Sofía Martínez Fernández

Former Analyst, Northern Triangle
20 Dec 2017
Reprimir y perseguir el crimen [en El Salvador] es necesario, pero tratar por igual a los supuestos criminales y al casi medio millón de personas que viven bajo su yugo puede llegar a ser contraproducente. El Faro

Sofía Martínez Fernández

Former Analyst, Northern Triangle

Latest Updates

Miracle or mirage? Gangs and the collapse of violence in El Salvador (Online Event, 21st July 2020)

Online Event to discuss International Crisis Group's report on the drop in homicide rates in El Salvador and the security policies of President Nayib Bukele.

Gangs and Plunging Violence in El Salvador

The murder rate in El Salvador, once the world’s highest, is falling fast. President Nayib Bukele attributes the good news to his harsh anti-gang crackdown, but other factors are likely also salient. The government should explore policing and socio-economic reforms to calm the country’s streets. These interviews were recorded in San Salvador, capital of El Salvador, in December 2019. During our field research we met with representatives from civil society, ex-gang members, politicians and government officials.

Miracle or Mirage? Gangs and Plunging Violence in El Salvador

The murder rate in El Salvador, once the world’s highest, is falling fast. President Nayib Bukele attributes the good news to his harsh anti-gang crackdown, but other factors are likely also salient. The government should explore policing and socio-economic reforms to calm the country’s streets.

Also available in Español