Homicide rates continue to increase in El Salvador in October, after Salvadoran security officials declared September the most violent month thus far in 2017. As of October 17, the police reported some 249 murders in the country in October, representing an average of 14.6 murders per day; comparatively, at least 430 people were murdered in September, with 14.3 murders per day. Salvadoran authorities primarily blame the rising homicide rate on the increased activity and clashes among street gangs (or maras), including MS-13, MS-503 (breakaway faction of Mara Salvatrucha), and Barrio 18.
In contrast to Salvadoran authorities' accounts, local media reports claim that few of the homicide victims in September were suspected gang members. The rise in violence also comes weeks after activists accused the Salvadoran government of allowing death squads to operate within the National Police. The ruling, left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) has accused the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (NRA) of instrumentalizing gangs to influence politicians and voters before the March 2018 elections. The FMLN-led government has also faced accusations that it is making secret deals with various criminal gangs.
In recent years, the government has made reducing violent crime and gang activity one of its top priorities. The government's approach is highly militarized, involving the use of elite police and military units, which have been accused of killing with legal impunity. In April 2017, the Special Temporary and Extraordinary Security Measures (Las Disposiciones Especiales Transitorias y Extraordinarias de Seguridad), first enacted in April 2016, were extended for another year. These measures increased detention periods for suspects, allow the army to participate in public security, and increased police authority in conducting searches and seizures.
El Salvador remains one of the most violent countries in the world, with more homicides registered in recent years than during the Salvadoran civil war.
Due to extremely high crime rates, individuals present in El Salvador are advised to maintain a low profile (conceal signs of wealth), drive with windows closed and doors locked, and keep in mind that criminals may be armed (do not resist if confronted, and do not look your attacker directly in the eye). Due to high crime rates, some Western governments advise against nonessential travel to parts of the country.