Drug Sales the Leading Cause of Violence in El Salvador

By Dialogo
July 05, 2011

Retail drug sales promoted by Salvadoran gangs have displaced extortion as the chief cause of the violence and homicides that are plaguing the country, President Mauricio Funes said on 29 June.

“We have detected that the chief cause of violence and homicides in our country is what is known as the retail drug trade, that is, the retail sale of drugs, which has now become the chief source of (economic) income for gangs, surpassing extortion,” Funes affirmed at an official event in San Salvador.

Funes recalled that up until a few months ago, extortion was the most common way for gangs to obtain money, but he said that since military control of Salvadoran prisons succeeded in “breaking” the chain of command through which illegal collections were ordered, this is no longer the case.

“Extortion is no longer the chief source of income for gangs. What constitutes the chief income for gangs at present? Drug sales at the retail level, not in large amounts (…) what is called the retail drug trade,” he emphasized.

Due to the change in the situation, the president explained, the gangs have launched a “ruthless war” for territory and control of the drug-distribution business.
Violence generated by crime results in an average of twelve homicides a day in El Salvador.

According to a 2010 report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), El Salvador has around 10,500 gang members.