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SHOCKING PHOTOS: Inside El Salvador's disgusting 'prison pits'

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 30th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A photographer has returned from El Salvador to expose that South American nation's grimiest secret. "Prison pits," cages that are little more than 12 by 15 feet house up to 30 criminal gang members in filthy, subhuman condition. Intended as only temporary prisons, these disgusting cells are breeding grounds for disease.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Alternative culture publication Vice has published these photos. The semi-naked men flash gang signs for the camera, as they contend with bring pressed against other gang members.

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The cells were originally intended only for temporary 72-hour stays. These cages house veterans of the country's vicious war between the MS-13 and M18 gangs.

Segregated among their own gangs, these men were previously hidden from public view. The Vice photojournalist noted that the men suffered frequent health problems and were underfed.

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These startling images depict the fallout from El Salvador's fragile truce following decades of near civil-war between the two powerful gangs. El Salvador witnessed a burst of violence last month that caused that led many to believe that the uneasy peace between the two gangs to might be crumbling.

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An upsurge in murders in the Central American nation echoes killing rates before the March 2012 truce between the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang and rival Barrio 18.

"We said last year that the truce was fragile and that it could fracture in any moment. Time has proven us right," Miguel Fortin, Director of the Supreme Court's Institute of Legal Medicine told reporters.

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Backed by the Catholic Church and the Organization of American States, the truce tried to reduce the homicide rates of 66 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2011, according to the United Nations, making El Salvador the world's most violent nation.

The unprecedented truce helped bring murders down to an average of five per day from 12 before the agreement. However, the rate of murder has been steadily rising since late May, with murders averaging 16 per day in early July.

El Salvador in March of last year witnessed the historic truce between the two rival gangs that was designed to curb the nation's daunting homicide rate.

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The MS-13 along with its fierce rival Barrio 18 vowed to end the killings and the forced recruitments in exchange for better conditions for incarcerated gang leaders, who run their operations from behind bars.

The gangs, which also operate in Guatemala and Honduras, are seeking truce talks in those countries as well.

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But Carlos Ponce, an expert on crime for the Salvadoran Attorney General's Office, believes the truce is a sham.

"It's all a lie, the gangs continue to operate, people continue getting killed, people keep disappearing and the gangs get stronger and stronger," he said.

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