El Salvador's Murderous Run Is Like a 'Low-Intensity War'
Bloodiest month in a decade saw 16 murders a day
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 7, 2015 3:27 PM CDT
In this 2014 photo, a masked National Police officer patrols as residents step back into their homes while police search for weapons in San Salvador, El Salvador.   (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

(Newser) – El Salvador has just closed its deadliest month in a decade. The National Civil Police reported that 481 people were murdered last month for an average of 16 homicides per day in the country, which is approximately the size of Massachusetts, the Guardian reports. Though a truce between renowned gangs MS-13 and Calle 18—negotiated in February 2012 with assistance from El Salvador's previous government and the Catholic Church—helped cut the murder rate in half, the agreement fell apart a year ago. The murder rate spiked 52% in March over the same time last year. Organized crime analysis group InsightCrime now says violence in El Salvador, home to just over 6 million people, is "taking on overtones of a low-intensity war."

Police say there were six massacres in March, including the murders of eight people at a truck stop last Sunday. The letter "Z," which reportedly referred to the Mexican Zetas cartel, was painted in blood on a nearby house. Plus, from Jan. 1 to Feb. 22, there were an average of 4.5 disappearances per day in the country, ElSalvador.com reports, per InsightCrime. Violence between gang members and police also is climbing. Though 40 officers were killed in 2014, there have been 17 officer deaths in just over three months in 2015. A chief negotiator in El Salvador's previous government says the transfer of gang leaders from low-security jails, where many were moved as part of the truce, to high-security prisons has played a role in the upsurge in violence.