SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — El Salvador's justice minister says the country's homicide rate has fallen to about 4.4 killings a day since June, about half of 2018 levels.
The country of 6.5 million people recorded 3,340 killings in 2018, or about nine a day. The bloodiest year of 2015 saw 6,425 homicides, or 17.6 a day.
Justice Minister Rogelio Rivas said Friday that "homicides are declining across the country."
Since taking office June 1, President Nayib Bukele has deployed police and soldiers to shopping and commercial areas to combat extortions, which provide 80 percent of gangs' incomes.
On Friday, a court sentenced 72 Mara Salvatrucha gang members to prison terms of 260 years for a series of 22 killings in 2014 and 2015. The sentences are symbolic, since the effective maximum is 60 years.