SAN SALVADOR – The bodies of three women who appeared to have been tortured were found inside a ramshackle dwelling east of San Salvador, El Salvador’s National Civilian Police, or PNC, said.
“The three women were mutilated with knives” at the dilapidated dwelling in Lomas de San Bartolo, Ilopango, located nine kilometers (5.5 miles) from San Salvador, a PNC spokesman said.
The victims “were between 15 and 20 years old” and were found in an area dominated by the Mara 18 gang, leading investigators to not rule out the possibility that gang members “are involved,” the PNC spokesman said.
El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in the world, registering an average of 11 murders a day, police figures show.
From January to November 2011, 583 women were murdered in El Salvador.
Mara 18 and Mara Salvatrucha are El Salvador’s two largest violent youth gangs, known as “maras.”
Mara Salvatrucha is a criminal organization that evolved on the streets of Los Angeles during the 1980s, with most of its members young Salvadorans whose parents fled their nation’s erstwhile civil war for the United States.
Because many of the gang members were born in El Salvador, they were subject to deportation when rounded up during immigration crackdowns in California in the 1990s.
Sent “home” to a land they barely knew, they formed gangs that spread throughout El Salvador and to neighboring countries in Central America, where membership is now counted in the tens, or even hundreds of thousands, and gang members are engaged in murder, drug dealing, kidnapping and people smuggling.
In addition to those activities, gang members are blamed throughout Central America for a spike in rapes and robberies, and for running protection rackets to extort “taxes” from bus companies and owners of small businesses.
Police estimate that some 10,000 gang members, most of them affiliated either with Mara 18 or Mara Salvatrucha operate in El Salvador.