SAN SALVADOR – At least 286 people were murdered in El Salvador in March, pushing the total for the first quarter of 2006 to 839, according to preliminary police figures.
The preliminary number for March 2006 was up from the same month last year, when 251 people were murdered, said the National Civil Police.
During the first quarter of 2005, 808 murders occurred in the Central American nation.
Based on the police figures, an average of nine murders were committed per day in both March and in the first quarter of this year, matching the daily murder rate registered since last year.
The police spokesman said the figures were preliminary and had to be compared with the numbers from the coroner’s office and the Attorney General’s Office.
El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in Latin America, and firearms are used in most of the killings committed here.
Police blame most of the murders committed in El Salvador on the country’s 9,700 gang members, of whom some 3,500 are in prison.
El Salvador’s population is 6 million. By way of comparison, New York City, with a population of 7.4 million, had just over 550 murders last year.
This small Central American country’s murder rate is approaching that of Río de Janeiro, one of the most violence-plagued cities of Latin America. In that Brazilian metropolis, with a population close to that of all of El Salvador, more than 300 people are slain every month.