In the first four months of 2012, 692 people were reported missing to the government forensic office, Medicina Legal, compared to 636 during the same period last year, reports La Prensa Grafica -- an 8 percent rise. This year's statistics only apply to San Salvador, but, according to the newspaper, disappearances outside the capital are not usually registered.
InSight Crime Analysis
The number of disappeared could undermine the achievements of a gang truce in the country, which has seen murders drop by around 60 percent since the country's two main gangs made a ceasefire in early March. Leaders of Barrio 18 and the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) agreed to stop killing each other's members and suspend attacks on members of the security forces for an undefined period, that appears to still be ongoing.
There were 255 murders registered in March, some 147 in April, and 76 in the first 15 days of May. This averages at about six killings a day, down some 60 percent from the first two months of the year.
If we assume, however, that the vast majority of the disappeared are now dead, March and April would have seen 391 and 294 murders, respectively, using the number of disappeared cited by La Prensa Grafica. This would effectively wipe out the security gains of the gang truce.
In reality the effect would not be as dramatic as this, because those who went missing before the gang truce were not counted in the murder figures for that period either. There has not been a dramatic jump in disappearances reported since the truce -- the number stood at 197 in January, 212 in February, 136 in March and 147 in April. This would leave 2012 on course for the same level of reported disappearances as last year, which saw 2,076. The decrease in killings, then, would still stand.Hannah Stone and La Prensa Grafica are right to take the number of disappeared into consideration in evaluation the security gains made since the gang truce occurred. If we add last year's murders and disappearances, the security gains made these last two-plus months.
However, if disappearances are still being carried out (by MS-13 and 18th Street) at the same rate since the truce, this is one area where it would not appear that the truce has extended to. I would also take into consideration that a lot of the criticism/concern in the article comes from Jorge Daboub, president of the private enterprise group ANEP, a leader in ARENA, and a sometimes mentioned presidential candidate for 2014.