Mr. Ticas attributes the killings to criminal groups, and notes the extreme cruelty of some of the killings, with one man appearing to have been buried alive. According to the scientist, some 95 percent of the bodies in these mass graves are aged under 17, and a majority are women.
El Faro has produced a photo essay which catalogues the spaces vacated by these missing people, many of them teenagers, and the stories told by their relatives point towards a gaping hole in knowledge about what happened to the victims. In some cases, relatives point to local branches of gangs like the Barrio 18 (M-18) and Marasalvatrucha 13 (MS-13), while in many they are at a loss to explain what happened to the victim, who simply left the house one day and did not return.
El Salvador had one of the highest murder rates in the world, at 64 per 100,000 according to some measures, and much of this is driven by gang violence.
The following are InSight Crime’s translations of a selection of the texts accompanying El Faro’s photo essay, selected for their mention of criminal gangs.
David’s family saw him for the last time when he was leaving his house to go to study. This was part of the route he took each day to get to class [see photo, top of three below]. One hypothesis is that he was taken when leaving school by some classmates who were gang members, who thought that he was a member of a rival gang because he lived in a community dominated by it. He had already been threatened. The police say they do not know the cause of his disappearance.