El Salvador Records First Murder-Free Day in Two Years

El Salvador
Alleged members of the 18 gang walk during their presentation to the press in San Salvador on February 26, 2016. The country experienced no murders for the first time in two years on a rare and peaceful Wednesday. Marvin Recinos/AFP/Getty

El Salvador recorded no murders on Wednesday, a rare sign of peace in the gang-plagued central American nation, marking the first day it has happened in two years, according to police.

National police chief Howard Cotto told a press conference Thursday that the day prior had passed peacefully. Violent gangs known as maras—particularly the Mara Salvatrucha, known as MS-13, and Mara-18, known as 18th Street Gang—have made El Salvador the murder capital of the world.

The last time 24 hours passed with a single homicide last occurred in El Salvador on January 22 2013, and on two days in 2012. The nation, which has a population of around 6 million, has the worst murder rate in the world, outside of conflict zones.

Between 2011 and 2012, Honduras held that title of murder capital of the world, but El Salvador surpassed the neighboring country and Venezuela in 2015.

It averaged 14.4 murders a day in 2015, 104 per 100,000 residents and a total of 6,657 death amid gang violence and police operations against criminals. In 2016, murders dropped to 81.2 per 100,000 residents, almost a 20 percent decrease. In comparison, the United States' murder rate per 100,000 residents is five.

In 2016, Salvadoran authorities focused their efforts on 10 districts of the country where violence was most prominent. Cotto said on January 2 that the strategy had "very palpable" results.

The country's gangs engage in vicious turf wars with one another and battles with the country's security forces. Some 10,000 gang members are languishing in Salvadoran prisons, with 60,000 gang members still on the country's streets. The country's Central Reserve Bank estimates that the gang violence costs the country a total of $4 billion a year.