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El Salvador Homicides Down by Half; Crackdown Credited

Police investigators carry a body to a forensic vehicle after a shootout between private security guards and gang members at the central market in San Salvador, El Salvador, March 15, 2017. At least 30 people, mostly gang members, died in the last 24 hours in El Salvador on one of the most violent days so far this year.

The number of homicides in El Salvador slumped by 52.5 percent in the first four months of 2017 compared with the same period last year, officials said Thursday, crediting new security measures in the violent Central American nation.

In the January-April period, 1,133 homicides were reported, compared with 2,387 in the same period in 2016, Security Minister Mauricio Ramirez said.

El Salvador, which saw a record number of homicides in 2015, put in place a raft of special measures in April, 2016 to combat gangs, called “maras.”

Recently deported by US

Speaking at a separate event, Attorney General Douglas Melendez said that gang members who have recently been deported from the United States have created new cliques named after U.S. cities and are sharing information with counterparts still in the United States.

The Salvadoran government Wednesday proposed creating a registry of deportees from the United States who have a criminal record to prevent them from entering the maras.

Authorities also said that some Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) members, who spilt from the gang because of a conflict over money management, created a new group called Mara Salvatrucha 503.

Salvatrucha's roots

The Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13 was formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s to protect early immigrants escaping civil war in El Salvador.

The gang, and its rival Barrio 18, have about 60,000 members together and are fighting each other for control of extortion, drug-trafficking and robbery in El Salvador.