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El Salvador

El Salvador, still recovering from its 1980-1992 civil war, is beset with endemic poverty and police corruption. Since the late 1990s, waves of violent crime have hit the country, making its  murder rate one of the world’s highest. Most killings are perpetrated by gangs extorting money or fighting for control of city districts. 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

Political tensions continued to run high as President Bukele accused electoral authorities of fraud ahead of 28 Feb elections. Bukele 7 Feb accused Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) magistrate of orchestrating fraud in upcoming legislative and local elections, after vote simulation using new vote-counting system experienced some glitches that day. Right-wing opposition party Nationalist Republican Alliance lawmaker Ricardo Velásquez Parker 9 Feb filed motion to remove Bukele from office by declaring him mentally unfit, accusing him of sowing division and citing his recurrent attacks on Legislative Assembly. Bukele immediately decried initiative as “coup attempt”. Assembly’s Political Committee 15 Feb started to discuss motion, also called for destitution of health minister for alleged irregularities and conflicts of interest in management of COVID-19 pandemic; move comes after NGO Funde late Jan accused govt of involvement in up to 20 corruption cases, notably in relation to COVID-19. After Attorney General’s Office 3 Feb confirmed arrest of three health ministry employees for suspected involvement in late Jan killing of two members of left-wing opposition party Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, police same day said attack was two-sided and accused Attorney General’s Office of releasing partial evidence. Two U.S. Congress members 7 Feb urged Bukele “to fully cooperate with the Attorney General’s independent investigation” and refrain from “stoking divisions in the interest of political gain”. Associated Press 9 Feb reported new U.S. administration refused to meet with Bukele when he was in Washington D.C. in early Feb, allegedly to prevent him from using meeting as show of support before elections. On election day, TSE 28 Feb accused Bukele of violating electoral silence by giving press conference, and announced possible sanctions against him.
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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

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

Deportation and Disease: Central America’s COVID-19 Dilemmas

As the coronavirus spreads, and the U.S. presidential election looms, the Trump administration and Mexican government continue to deport migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Some deportees are carrying the virus. Central American states should press their northern neighbours for more stringent health measures.

Also available in Español