SAN SALVADOR – The death Friday of a woman who had burns over 90 percent of her body increased to 16 the death toll from last weekend’s burning of a bus by suspected gang members in El Salvador.
A source at San Salvador’s Rosales Hospital identified the woman as Maria de Jesus Orellana, 45.
Fourteen people died in the attack on the bus Sunday night in Mejicanos, a city on the north side of the San Salvador metropolitan area. Another passenger passed away two days later at Rosales Hospital.
The torching of the bus occurred minutes after unidentified individuals opened fire on another bus in northwest San Salvador, near Mejicanos, killing two children and a man.
Authorities have arrested a dozen suspects in connection with the attacks, which are blamed on the Mara 18 gang.
Gang members have been staging attacks for years on bus owners who refuse to give in to extortion, killing drivers and torching vehicles, but Sunday’s incident was the first time a bus was set on fire with the passengers still aboard.
At least 80 bus workers have been murdered and 15 vehicles burned this year by gangs.
Responding to Sunday’s attacks, El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly passed a bill making attacks on public transportation a terrorist offense punishable by up to 60 years in prison.
The measure, which was put forward by the right-wing ARENA and GANA parties, won support from all 75 lawmakers present at Thursday’s session of the 84-seat body.
The legislation mandates sentences of 40-60 years in prison for those convicted of attacks on buses or transit terminals that result in casualties.
To become law, the bill must be signed by center-left President Mauricio Funes and published in the official gazette.
ARENA lawmaker Guillermo Avila urged Funes to enact the measure as quickly as possible to “send a positive message” that El Salvador does not want to witness a repeat of “these atrocious acts.” EFE