|El Salvador 2015|
First, El Salvador should recognize that its murder rate has dropped for two consecutive years, but in no way should the government celebrate that its rate now is only 6 times what is considered epidemic.
Second, government action is not primarily responsible for the movement of the country's homicide rate. January and February 2017 were the two least violent months of the year. They just so happened to be the two months during which the country's gangs offered to enter into dialogue with the government. Unsurprisingly, September and October were the most violent months of the year, two months when the gangs sought to demonstrate their strength in front of the government.
Third, the geographic distribution of homicides is changing once again. There appears to be a balloon effect. Several of the country's most violent municipalities in 2017 were not among the 50 most violent municipalities as designated by the government in 2014 and 2015. There might be some evidence that Plan Safe El Salvador is working. However, it could just be that the gangs have moved, which is good for the people of those municipalities where violence has gone down but is short of saying that a plan worked.
Finally, homicides in San Salvador decreased 47 percent last year. Something for Mayor Nayib Bukele to celebrate. However, what is striking is the emptying of the city. From 2005 to 2018, the capital's population decreased from 363,000 inhabitants to 229,000. San Salvador is losing 10,000 residents each year.
Guatemala's homicide rate has decreased year-over-year for nearly a decade. We should be skeptical about the causes of such a decline but recognize that it has been a sustained decline. El Salvador has only had two years of decreases. That is positive. However, as Roberto notes in his article, the first quarter of 2017 drove the year's statistical decrease. The rest of the year was quite bloody. Homicides also tend to go down when the gangs want them to go down. We don't know what they will want in the run up to the 2018 elections.