Land declares state of emergency after 62 murders in one day

El Salvador has the lowest murder rate in the world (Photo: AP)

More than 60 people have been killed in a day of mass killings in El Salvador, forcing the country’s president to declare a state of emergency.

The grim death toll of Saturday of 62 followed on Friday the murders of 14 other people in gang-related murders.

The country’s Congress approved President Nayib Bukele’s call for a state of emergency early Sunday after the violence, which is arguably the worst in years.

The 76 deaths over two days compared to 79 murders in the entire February.

The killings are thought to be ordered by the Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13 gang, police said, adding that they caught five of its leaders.

The country’s infamous street gangs effectively control several neighborhoods in the capital, San Salvador, where armed police and soldiers patrol the streets.

The gangs have destroyed the recent history of the Central American country, making the country one of the worst crime rates in the world.

Heavily armed police guard the streets of the capital, San Salvador (Photo: AP)
Soldiers manned a checkpoint at the entrance to the Las Palmas community, a neighborhood largely under gang control (Image: AP)

The decree suspends constitutional guarantees of freedom of assembly and loosens arrest rules for as many as 30 days – though that can be extended.

Research out Statista in 2021 suggests that El Salvador has the world’s worst murder rate, at 82.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. Neighbor Honduras finished second at 56.5.

The UK was around 1.2 in 2018.

While the leader of El Salvador has tried to speak harshly about crime, the country’s enormously powerful gangs have proved a double-edged sword for him.

“We need to remind the people of El Salvador that what is happening now is due to the negligence of those who protect criminals,” the Conservative Arena party said in a statement.

A soldier checks a man’s backpack at the exit of the Las Palmas community (Photo: AP)
]An informal food vendor waits at her stall next to a police officer at a crime scene (Photo: AP)

The remarks seemed to be a reference to a December report by the US Treasury which claimed that Mr Bukele’s government was secretly negotiating a ceasefire with gang leaders.

The US government claims that Mr Bukele’s government bought the gangs’ support with financial benefits and privileges for their prison leaders, including prostitutes and mobile phones.

The explosive allegations have damaged the president, who has made much of a dent in the country’s murder figures and denied the allegations efforts when they were reported in August 2020.

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The Treasury statement said the administration provided Mr Bukele’s financial incentive to Salvadoran gangs MS-13 and 18th Street Gang (Barrio 18) to ensure incidents of gang violence and the number of confirmed murders remain low.

“In the course of these negotiations with Luna and Marroquin, the leadership of the gang has also agreed to provide political support to the Nuevas Ideas political party in the upcoming elections.”

The revelations raised tensions between President Bukele, seen as hugely popular in the country, and the administration of Joe Biden.

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Land declares state of emergency after 62 murders in one day

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