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  • The new force participated in a presentation ceremony before they were deployed.

    The new force participated in a presentation ceremony before they were deployed. | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 April 2016

El Salvador is adopting a more militaristic approach to resolving its gang problem.

El Salvador has announced the creation of a new military force with the specific goal of battling gangs in the Latin American country.

El Salvador's War on Terror

The 1,000-strong special force is equipped with helicopters, armored cars and assault weapons, according to the BBC, who first reported the story.

The Salvadoran government has cracked down on leaders from dangerous gangs such as Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, which resulted in the arrest of about 300 members last year. Many more leaders fled from major cities, and the new force is meant to track them.

El Salvador's reputation as one the murder capitals of Latin America and the world is largely the result of killings in turf wars between rival gangs, which have transnational roots in the street gangs of Los Angeles.

At a ceremony inaugurating the force, Vice President Oscar Ortiz said that it was the time to "stop the scale of violence which has imposed itself in the last few years on our country and which has created so much blood and sacrifice."

Salvadoran Gov't Issues 300 Warrants to Crackdown on Gangs

"We are going to go after them in the countryside and in the city," he continued, adding that human rights would be respected.

President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a former left-wing guerrilla, has been responsible for the crackdown against violent gangs in El Salvador. He recently presented a bill to Congress to isolate jailed crime bosses by limiting their movements and family visits, as well as blocking mobile phone signals from their cells.

His government's pressure on the gangs even motivated them to offer to negotiate, which Sanchez refused. However, the president has also been the target of criticism by some of his left-wing allies for his hard-line approach to the gang problem.

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