SHOCKING PHOTOS: Inside El Salvador's disgusting 'prison pits'
As many as 30 men are crammed into cages no larger than 12 by 15 feet
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.
The prisoners sport their gang tattoos - which denote the membership of either the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) or Barrio 18 (M18) gangs.
Members of El Salvador's rival gangs the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 (M18) are penned in cages that are only meant to be used for temporary stays.
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.
Both gangs have their roots in Southern California, where young men seeking refuge from Central America's civil wars formed violent gangs on the streets of Los Angeles and its suburbs in the 1980s.
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.
An estimated 50,000 Salvadorans belong to the street gangs that have terrified citizens and left this small Central American nation of 6 million with one of the world's highest murder rates.
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.
The two gangs have been battling it out for almost two decades since they returned from LA to El Salvador.
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.
A U.N. report said El Salvador and neighboring Honduras have the highest homicide rates in the world with 66 and 82.1 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, respectively, in 2010.
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.
The unprecedented truce helped bring murders down to an average of five per day from 12 before the agreement.
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.
© 2013, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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