Murders in El Salvador drop by half in June

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - Murders in El Salvador plunged 51 percent in June compared with the same month last year, police said on Friday, attributing the drop to new government security measures even as gangs pointed to a recent truce to explain the decline. The country registered 331 homicides last month, around 11 per day compared with 677 in June 2015, Police Director Howard Cotto said on Friday. In April, the government launched new programs aimed at regaining control of prisons and areas occupied by gangs, which Cotto said have helped boost gang member detentions and weapons seizures. However, gang spokesmen said the decline in murders was thanks to a truce reached in March. Despite the slowdown in murders last month, homicides in the first six month of the year rose 6.5 percent, to 3,050, compared with the same period last year, according to official data. El Salvador's homicide rate last year was 103 per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the highest in the world. (Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Editing by Leslie Adler)