Christianity is growing rapidly in El Salvador — along with gang violence and murder rates

By Paul Glader | The Washington Post
April 8 at 1:03 PM

el salvador ms 13 gangSAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – Elmer Villalobos was 26 when the notorious Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang grew irritated that the private bus firm where Elmer’s older brother, Gustavo, worked refused to pay extortion fees in their neighborhood of Cuscatancingo.

Gunmen from the gang – sometimes known for wearing body and face tattoos and fighting to the death — stormed the bus station, sending drivers and toll-takers scurrying into a nearby eatery that made the locally famous “Pupusa,” El Salvador’s twist on a quesadilla or arepa. The gang members opened fire on Gustavo, who was peaceably dining, shooting him eight times and causing his death.

Central America is a region racked with drug and gang-related violence. Its murder rates are so high that Villalobos and others compare it to a war zone. New statistics from 2014 indicate El Salvador is re-capturing the ignoble distinction (from Honduras) of being the most murderous nation state on earth.

In March, at least 481 people were murdered in El Salvador, a record rate of 16 people per day and a 52 percent increase from the same period last year and the most violent month in 10 years. The numbers threaten the leadership of leftist president Salvador Sánchez Cerén, who has proposed less mano dura (“iron fist”) crackdowns and more prevention, social programs and prison reform.

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