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El Salvador

Yearbook 2015

El Salvador. Crime continued to be El Salvador's biggest social problem by far, and in one way or another characterized both political and economic conditions. In addition, 2015 seemed to be the most violent year to date in the country's history, and the number of murders began to take on the same dimensions as during the civil war in the 1980s. During the first nine months of the year, around 5,000 people were murdered throughout the country, which was 72% more than the corresponding figure for the previous year, and even 26% more than the figure for the whole of 2014.

2015 El Salvador

According to COUNTRYAAH, the majority of the violence accounted for youth gangs ("maras"). During the year, one of the largest, Barrio 18 Revolucionarios, focused on attacks against buses, whose conductors had previously been subject to extortion. As a result, the bus drivers in the metropolitan area around the capital city of San Salvador in July went on strike and public transport was hit by chaos. The government promised permanent police presence on all buses, but only a few days later it turned out that even that was not enough: a group of Mara police officers killed four people and injured another 15 in a bus attack.

President Salvador Sánchez Cerén launched in July his Plan El Salvador Seguro, which means increased military presence on the streets. He also announced that the demands of maras to be left in peace to stop their attacks were unacceptable and that the government did not intend to negotiate with criminals. The Supreme Court also announced a decision that Mara members can be considered terrorists and may fall under the country's terrorist laws. Critics, however, argued that the court's finding hardly leads to stopping the country's spiral of violence but can lead to further violence. Maras was estimated to have more than 60,000 members.

The consequences of the violence were also felt in the economic field. The government was pushing for a new 10 per cent tax on telecommunications to finance the fight against the youth gang. At the same time, the political parties accused each other of having their own interests in the spiral of violence. For example, the FMLN (Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation Front) claimed that the Opposition Party Arena (Republican National Alliance) was running a destabilization campaign against the government.

Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero, who was cold-bloodedly murdered during the 1980 civil war in the midst of ongoing worship, was declared saint at a ceremony on May 23. Ironically, it happened in the country's most violent month to date, with 482 murders.

In the March 1 congressional elections, the opposition party Arena increased the number of seats and became the largest party with 35 seats but did not get its own majority. The ruling party FMLN retained its 31 seats. In the mayoral elections held simultaneously, Arena managed to win in 15 more municipalities than in the 2012 election, a total of 212, while the FMLN still has 85 mayors, including in the capital, San Salvador.

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