El Salvador Witnesses Remarkable 70% Drop in Homicides in 2023

El Salvador’s Homicide Rate Sees a Dramatic 70% Decrease in 2023

El Salvador, Central America’s battle-scarred nation, celebrated a momentous victory in its fight against crime as the number of homicides in 2023 witnessed a staggering 70% reduction, according to the country’s security authorities. The credit for this remarkable turnaround is attributed to the government’s persistent state of emergency declaration, championed by President Nayib Bukele.

Justice and Security Minister Gustavo Villatoro made the triumphant announcement, revealing that only 154 murders were recorded in the country in 2023. This figure stands in stark contrast to the grim statistics of 495 homicides documented the previous year. The resulting homicide rate of 2.4 per 100,000 people, as highlighted by Villatoro, is now the lowest in the Americas, except Canada.

A Striking Contrast Over the Years

The contrast between this year’s figures and those of the recent past is stark. In 2021 and 2020, over 1,000 lives were lost in El Salvador due to violence. In 2019, the number exceeded 2,000, as per official data.

President Bukele’s relentless crackdown on criminal elements has garnered widespread support among Salvadorans who have long borne the burden of gang violence, extortion, and drug-related crimes.

However, the success of this strategy has been met with criticism from human rights groups, which allege that it has led to various abuses, including torture, deaths in custody, and arbitrary detentions.

State of Emergency: Empowering Police with Controversial Measures

The state of emergency, initiated early in 2022, empowers the police to swiftly apprehend and detain suspected gang members, suspending their right to legal representation and court approval of preliminary detention.

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Since its implementation, security forces have apprehended nearly 75,000 suspected gang members while also releasing 7,000 individuals, as per official records. Alarmingly, human rights groups have reported 190 deaths and over 5,000 abuses linked to the ongoing crackdown.

Doubts Cast on Official Data by Human Rights Advocates

Furthermore, the Central American University’s (UCA) Observatory of Human Rights has consistently criticized official data, alleging that violent deaths are “highly underreported” and that government statistics are “not truthful.” Notably, the data does not account for suspected gang members who become casualties in confrontations with security officials, nor does it include individuals who perish in state custody.

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