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El Salvador's Murder Rate Decreases for Third Straight Year

FILE - An inmate paints over gang graffiti in Soyapango, El Salvador, June 21, 2016. El Salvador saw its murder rate drop for the third year in a row. The government attributes the drop to a crackdown on crime and gang activity.

El Salvador's murder rate, still one of the highest in the world, dropped for the third year in a row, authorities said Wednesday.

With 3,340 murders in 2018, 15 percent fewer than the previous year, El Salvador's murder rate of 51 per 100,000 inhabitants is now half the figure from 2015.

"In three straight years we've obtained gradual and progressive reductions," said Justice and Security Minister Mauricio Ramirez on local television.

El Salvador had 6,657 murders in 2015, some 103 per 100,000 inhabitants, a figure which dropped to 81 a year later and 60 in 2017, according to Ramirez.

The minister said the reduction was due to the "hard battle" against crime, prevention programs in high-risk communities and prison rehabilitation measures that managed to extricate 2,000 members from their gangs.

Authorities say most murders are committed by gang members, of which there are around 70,000 in the central American country, although 17,000 are behind bars.