San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

320 Murders in El Salvador In First Month of 2009

SAN SALVADOR – At least four people were murdered Jan. 28 in El Salvador in a new round of the violence that has taken some 320 lives so far this year, police said last week.

One of the victims from Jan. 28 night was police officer Francisco Adonay Vasquez, who was killed inside a bus on the highway linking San Salvador with the central city of Quezaltepeque.

El Salvador, with a population of around 5.7 million people, experienced an average of nearly nine homicides a day in 2008. Authorities have blamed most of those slayings on well-organized youth gangs.

The head of the national police, Jose Luis Tobar, said last week that the pace of killings has increased to 12 per day since Jan. 1, attributing the increase in violence to battles among gangs.

The gangs originated on the streets of Los Angeles among young Salvadorans whose parents fled their nation’s 1980-1992 civil war for the United States.

Because many of the gang members were born in El Salvador, they were subject to deportation when rounded up during crackdowns in California in the 1990s. Sent back “home” to a land they barely knew, they formed gangs that spread throughout the country and the region.


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