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El Salvador

PSSM at a weapons storage site near San Salvador

New fencing being put up at a weapons and ammunition storage site near San Salvador – one of 10 military installations identified by MAG as in need of security improvements to prevent weapons and ammunition falling into the hands of criminals.
[Photo: MAG El Salvador]

Why MAG is needed in El Salvador

El Salvador has one of the most violent societies in the world, its homicide rate second only to Honduras1.

In an average year between 2004 and 2009, more people per capita were killed in El Salvador than in Iraq2; in fact, Salvadorans were more at risk of violent death than any other population in the world3.

Contributing factors to these levels of armed violence include extreme poverty4, acute inequality5, widespread organised crime linked to narcotrafficking, and the high availability of small arms and light weapons in the aftermath of the country’s 1980-1992 civil war.

Small arms and light weapons have permeated El Salvadorian culture to the extent that there are now nearly six privately owned guns per 100 people and grenades are regularly used in civil disputes and robberies. Of the 3,179 reported homicides in 2008, 77 per cent (2,446) were firearms-related6.

In this highly militarised society, where current levels of violence surpass those recorded during the civil war, it is crucial that military storage sites are secure and not susceptible to ‘leakages’ of small arms and light weapons.

How MAG is helping in El Salvador

After identifying ten weapons/munitions storage facilities across the country where stockpiles are extremely vulnerable to theft, MAG began implementing a three-month project with the Salvadoran Armed Forces in March 2013 to upgrade the sites.

New fencing, gates, cameras, high security locks and lighting are being installed by a military construction team, with MAG providing technical advice and oversight, ensuring compliance with international standards. The Salvadoran military, though aware of the risks, lacks the funds and specialist knowledge to carry out the improvements itself.

These new measures will reduce the likelihood of weapons and ammunition falling into the wrong hands, and the havoc this wreaks on communities, in terms of social and economic impact7 as well as the human cost.

The project also aims to increase the ability of Salvadoran authorities to meet the obligations of the ‘Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects’8.

The project is being funded by the US Department of State’s Office for Weapons Removal and Abatement.


1 According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 4,349, 4,005 and 4,308 murders were recorded in 2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively, representing an average rate of 68.2 per 100,000 population (
2 Global Burden of Armed Violence 2011 (
3 Small Arms Survey Research Notes, Number 17, May 2012
4 The World Bank's development indicators show 42.5 per cent of El Salvador's population to be living in poverty (
5 The most recent figures by The World Bank's Gini index put El Salvador as the country with the 12th highest rate of inequality (
6 (
7 Small Arms Survey (
8 The full text of the Programme of Action is available at the UNPoA website:

External resources

AlertNet: El Salvador profile

BBC: El Salvador profile

Small Arms Survey website

United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs website

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About MAG

MAG (Mines Advisory Group) saves and improves lives by reducing the devastating effects armed violence and remnants of conflict have on people around the world.
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