In the wake of the slaying of seven police officers earlier this year, the Salvadoran government recently gave police forces in the country the green light to open fire “without any fear of suffering consequences" if they feel threatened by gang members.
Vice President Oscar Ortiz said that the Salvadoran government endorses the decision of the federal police director to authorize the new policy.
"We support ... any member of the police, our police, who in fulfillment of his duties and the defense of the safety of citizens, uses his gun and should use it without any fear of suffering consequences," said Ortiz in a statement, according to Reuters.
El Salvador has the world's second highest per capita homicide rate after neighboring Honduras. In 2012 and 2013, El Salvador's previous leftist government helped negotiate a truce between the gangs, during which time it claimed that homicides fell by 60 percent. But detractors saw the truce as government collusion with criminals. They argue that the dead simply were dumped in clandestine graves by the country's tens of thousands of gang members.
Thirty-nine police officers were executed in 2014 by alleged gang members in the Central American country — more than three times the number of officers killed in 2013, according to official figures.
"We will win this battle, and we're going to win it by democratic means, but also by applying the force that is needed to punish those who need to be punished," Ortiz said.
In 2013, the United States said they would hand over $91.2 million to El Salvador in funding to bump up the Central American nation’s fledgling security system, but said that the money has nothing to do with the Salvadoran gang truce, which has since crumbled.
The funds are part of the bilateral Association for Growth agreement the U.S. signed with El Salvador in 2011. The agreement aims to “overcome the obstacles slowing economic growth" in El Salvador, which sees its security situation as one of the main hurdles.