Reuters International

El Salvador's President Salvador Sanchez Ceren addresses attendees during a plenary meeting of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York September 25, 2015. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly


SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - El Salvador's Congress on Thursday approved a bond issuance of $152 million (103 million pounds) to finance a series of measures aimed at tackling endemic gang violence in the poor Central American country.

The bond issue, which was unanimously approved by all political parties, will be used to build three temporary detention centres, purchase arms and vehicles, and boost the military and police. It will also be used to pay military pensions and for feeding prisoners.

The move comes as El Salvador's leftist President Salvador Sanchez Ceren faces severe financial problems in his efforts to tackle the gangs, known as maras, who have blighted El Salvador with one of the world's highest murder rates.

Sanchez Ceren, a 71-year-old former communist guerrilla, has taken a tough line on crime, deploying anti-gang army battalions and toughening up legislation to fight the maras and their associates.

Earlier in May, El Salvador arrested former congressman Raul Mijango, who brokered a controversial gang truce in 2012 that reduced murders in the violent Central American nation by half.

The breakdown of the truce in 2014 led to a record escalation of violence last year, with homicide rates rising to 103 per 100,000 inhabitants, the world's highest, because of fighting between the Mara Salvatrucha 13 and rival Barrio 18.

(Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Sandra Maler)


 Reuters International