El Salvador prison gang vi­o­lence kills four­teen


At least 14 in­mates were killed in an El Salvador jail on Satur­day when vi­o­lence erupted be­tween two fac­tions of a no­to­ri­ous gang, an of­fi­cial said.

The killings at Quezal­te­peque prison, about 30 kilo­me­ters ( 20 miles) north of the cap­i­tal San Salvador, were linked to an in­ter­nal dis­pute in­volv­ing the feared Bar­rio 18 gang, a spokesman for the pres­i­dency told AFP.

The prison was placed on lock­down and se­cu­rity ramped up, as about 50 peo­ple with rel­a­tives in the jail de­scended on the fa­cil­ity, some weep­ing and oth­ers de­mand­ing to know the iden­ti­ties of the dead.

A state of emer­gency was de­clared for 72 hours at the jail and author­i­ties in­sisted that they were in full con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion.

Prison of­fi­cials were alerted when some mem­bers of the “Rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies” fac­tion of the gang failed to re­turn to their cells, said Eu­ge­nio Chi­cas, the com­mu­ni­ca­tions sec­re­tary for the pres­i­dency.

Se­cu­rity agents and riot po­lice found their bod­ies among some garbage bins, added Chi­cas, la­bel­ing it “a purge.”

“There has been an in­ter­nal con­fronta­tion,” said Chi­cas.

The Di­rec­torate Gen­eral of Pris­ons, on Twit­ter, said it was “pre­sumed to be an act of pu­rifi­ca­tion among gang mem­bers.”

The deaths un­der­line how gang vi­o­lence has made El Salvador one of the most dan­ger­ous coun­tries in the world.

On Wed­nes­day, po­lice said there were at least 125 mur­ders in just three days in the coun­try, a stag­ger­ing toll even by El Salvador’s stan­dards.

“These are wor­ri­some num­bers. These are Sal­vado­rans who are dy­ing. Re­gard­less of who is a gang mem­ber or not,” Na­tional Po­lice chief Mauri­cio Ramirez told re­porters.

There were 3,332 mur­ders be­tween Jan­uary and June, up from 2,191 a year ear­lier, gov­ern­ment data show.

Failed Truce

The Mara Sal­va­trucha (MS-13) and Bar­rio 18 (M-18) gangs have an es­ti­mated 70,000 mem­bers in El Salvador, 10,000 of whom are be­hind bars.

The gangs emerged in the 1980s in Latino neigh­bor­hoods in Los An­ge­les.

They ar­rived in Cen­tral Amer­ica when the United States de­ported thou­sands of im­mi­grants who had fled there to es­cape civil wars that had gripped the re­gion in the late 20th cen­tury.

Crim­i­nal gangs have been pres­sur­ing the gov­ern­ment to in­clude them in a com­mis­sion ex­am­in­ing ways to stem en­demic ur­ban vi­o­lence for which these same groups are, to a large ex­tent, re­spon­si­ble.

Since tak­ing of­fice last year, Pres­i­dent Salvador Sanchez Ceren has tried to crack down on crime and re­fused to ne­go­ti­ate with the gangs.

Last month, Bar­rio 18 or­dered a bus strike and seven bus driv­ers were killed af­ter they de­fied the gang.

By seek­ing to shut down public trans­port, the gang hoped to strong-arm the gov­ern­ment to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

The on­go­ing vi­o­lence un­der­scores the break­down in a truce the gangs de­clared in March 2012, bro­kered by the Catholic Church with be­hind-the-scenes help from then pres­i­dent Mauri­cio Funes.

In re­sponse to the new wave of vi­o­lence, Sanchez Ceren has re­versed a key con­ces­sion of the con­tro­ver­sial truce, or­der­ing more than 50 jailed gang lead­ers who were be­ing held in “flex­i­ble” de­ten­tion cen­ters trans­ferred back to max­i­mum­se­cu­rity pris­ons.


Rel­a­tives of in­mates await news out­side the Quezal­te­peque prison, where at least 14 in­mates were killed when vi­o­lence erupted be­tween two fac­tions of a no­to­ri­ous gang, in Quezal­te­peque, about 30 kilo­me­ters (20 miles) north of the cap­i­tal San Salvador, on Satur­day, Aug. 22.

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