El Salvador

Two decades after the end of its civil war, El Salvador has been trying to limit the influence of criminal gangs that control large portions of the country. Once afflicted by the world’s highest murder rate, the country now sees fewer homicides, but the gangs have tightened their grip upon turf where they run extortion rackets and exercise other forms of social control. Every year, the dangers of daily life push tens of thousands of Salvadorans to hazard the journey north to the U.S. border. Through its fieldwork and advocacy, Crisis Group presses for crime prevention, rehabilitation and socio-economic reform policies that can make El Salvador a safer place to live.

CrisisWatch El Salvador

Unchanged Situation

Authorities extended state of exception for 11th time, and International Monetary Fund (IMF) published findings on state of economy and outlook.

State of exception renewed once again amid continued concern about human rights. Following Legislative Assembly’s 11th renewal of state of exception on 14 Feb, Minister of Justice and Public Security Gustavo Villatoro 22 Feb said 64,512 people had been arrested for gang affiliation since measure began. Concerns about human rights violations continued as state of exception’s one-year anniversary neared. Notably, online news outlet El Faro 3 Feb said measure had broken gangs’ hold on communities but also resulted in systematic violation of human rights and slide into authoritarianism. According to NGO Cristosal, as of 15 Feb there had been at least 107 in-custody deaths since March 2022. Meanwhile, authorities 24 Feb transferred 2,000 prisoners to new mega-prison of Tecoluca, which will house 40,000 prisoners; NGO Human Rights Watch 26 Feb said “packing tens of thousands of detainees is unlikely to bring security for Salvadorans in a sustainable manner”.

International Monetary Fund released statement on economic situation. Following its latest mission to El Salvador, IMF 10 Feb presented final statement amid concerns about economic situation, saying country must bring its debt “back to a sustainable path”; statement also highlighted increased vulnerabilities, including account deficit, low international reserves and high stock of short-term domestic debt.

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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

Former 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 indispen... 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 p... El Faro

Sofía Martínez Fernández

Former Analyst, Northern Triangle

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