El Salvador: Homicides reach monthly peak in a decade

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Homicides reach monthly peak in a decade; El Niño threatens to hit hard the country’s agriculture; Economy grows 2% in 2014

sv homicides1

Homicides reach monthly peak in a decade

On March of this year a total of 481 people were killed (16 per day), reported the National Civil Police (Policía Nacional Civil – PNC). In March of 2014 the homicide count was of 308, averaging 10 deaths per day.

Up to March this year 1,121 people have been murdered, 332 more than in the same period in 2014.

March 2015 was the deadliest month since October 2009, when 437 people were murdered.

In a single day, for example, nine people were killed in the municipality of Quezaltepeque. This was one of six massacres that occurred last month.

Of those murdered, 92% were men and most were between 18 and 30 years old. In addition, 79% were killed with a firearm.

Homicides declined significantly following a gang truce signed in March 2012 between the two most powerful criminal organisations, MS-13 and Barrio 18. However, after a little more than a year homicides began to rise again.

The PNC’s report also shows that violence has expanded geographically in the past three months. Of the 262 municipalities nationwide, 104 registered homicides in January. In March, however, the number of municipalities with registered homicides increased to 143.

The municipalities with most homicides are San Salvador, Apopa, Ciudad Delgado, Soyapango, and Mejicanos (all in the department of San Salvador).

Other crimes such as burglary, auto theft and sexual assaults also registered upticks in the past months.

El Niño threatens to hit hard the country’s agriculture

According to the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales – MARN), the probability that climate phenomenon El Niño occurs in the upcoming three months is 50-60%.

This would cause severe droughts that could last more than two weeks, severely damaging crops.

So far, the Ministry of Agriculture has yet to communicate to farmers the preventive measures that could be applied to overcome the droughts. Nor has it revealed any contingency plan in case the phenomenon last several weeks.

Despite this, farmers have said they are not waiting for the government to act and are already taking measures to counter the perils of a prospective drought.

For example, farmers that plan to harvest are looking for flat fields that are would allow rainfall to keep the soil wet for longer. Others are building makeshift dams and other types of irrigation systems, all depending on their financial means.

Some farmers are considering bringing forward their harvests given the likelihood of less rainfall later on this year.

Economy grows 2% in 2014

El Salvador’s economy expanded 2% in 2014, says the Central Reserve Bank (Banco Central de Reserva – BCR). This represents a 0.2% uptick when compared to the previous year.

Real estate and the service sector had the largest growth (4%), while banking, insurance and other financial institutions expanded 3.4%.

According to the BCR, private consumption was one of the main variables that fuelled growth last year. This, however, was still below the consumption levels registered prior the 2009 financial crisis.

Improvements in the export sector, balance of payments, and remittances also played a role in last year’s economic growth.