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30 July, 2016

Death squads may return to El Salvador

El Salvador runs the risk of seeing the reemergence of death squads as the government pursues a hardline approach in its efforts to tackle violent crime in the Central American country, national human rights ombudsman David Morales told EFE.

2015 saw a record level of homicides in the Central American country and the nation has already registered 3,050 violent deaths in the first six months of this year, the bloodiest period of the last decade.

Violent crime is attributed mostly to the country's armed gangs, known as maras, which were born in the United States but grew in size and power inside El Salvador when many of its members were deported from the U.S. back to Central America.

In light of the violence, the government of President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a former leftist guerrilla, launched a militarized offensive against the gangs. The government effort is showing signs of success, with homicides down 51 percent in June 2016 compared to the year before.

However, according to Morales a lack of internal discipline in the security forces, a high tolerance for abuses and the war-like tone of discourse about crime in El Salvador creates an environment that favors the reemergence of death squads.

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