By Robert Muggah for Los Angeles Times. They found the sergeant’s severed head on a bridge. His name was Baltazar Olayzola Diaz, and he had served with the Soyapango municipal police force. Baltazar’s beheading, the national police chief said, was staged by ruthless maras, or gangs, who were negotiating for better prison conditions. He was the 49th police officer assassinated in 2015, and one of 17 people killed that day.

It’s official. El Salvador is the world’s most violent country and its capital, San Salvador, is the world’s most homicidal city. Salvadoran cities have seen more blood spilled than most conflict zones. They are also hemorrhaging people, many of whom are fleeing to Mexico and the United States.

According to new figures produced by the Institute of Legal Medicine in El Salvador, there were 6,656 killings in the country last year. That translates into a national homicide rate of almost 116 per 100,000, more than 17 times the global average. Compare El Salvador’s totals with the 516 slayings reported in 2014 in Canada, a country with almost six times the population.

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