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El Salvador

El Salvador is a relatively small but growing player in the drug trafficking business. It serves as a drug receiving and storage point along the Pacific Coast, and a bridge via the Pan-American Highway, the Fonseca Gulf and roads from Honduras that cut through relatively unpopulated areas

Latest News

Unclear Criteria Undermine US Corruption List in Central America

NEWS / 5 JUL 2021

The United States has released a highly-anticipated report on corrupt actors in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, but the lack of clear criteria for those placed on the list may…

Did an MS13-El Salvador Govt Pact Temporarily Halt Gang Extraditions?

NEWS / 1 JUL 2021

Multiple sources from the United States and El Salvador say the recent decision to temporarily halt the extradition of several top MS13 leaders to face US charges may be related…

‘Blue’: The Story of MS13’s First ‘Terrorist’

NEWS / 23 JUN 2021

On the eve of the extradition of top leaders of El Salvador’s feared Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang to the United States on terrorism charges, InSight Crime recounts the story of…

El Salvador Profile

Criminal Actors

Armed Groups

Crime and violence in El Salvador are fueled by street gangs – particularly the infamous Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and to a lesser extent two factions of the Barrio 18. The gangs control territory through cliques, engaging in low-level crimes like extortion, kidnapping and drug sales. Drug trafficking groups – the Perrones and the Texis Cartel – also have operations in the country. But these groups have been on the decline after the arrests of key figures, leaving a door open for the country’s dominant gang – the MS13 – to enter the trafficking market.

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Personalities

José Adán Salazar Umaña, alias 'Chepe Diablo'

CHEPE DIABLO / MAY 26, 2021

José Adán Salazar Umaña, alias "Chepe Diablo," does not fit the normal profile of a criminal leader. As the former president of the first division of Salvadoran soccer and the…

Moris Alexander Bercián Manchón, alias 'El Barney'

EL SALVADOR / 2020-03-09

Moris Alexander Bercián Manchón, alias "El Barney," is one of six MS13 members in El Salvador sanctioned by the United States for participation in illicit transnational actvities including drug trafficking.

Reynerio Flores Lazo

EL SALVADOR PERSONALITIES / 2017-03-09 22:27:26

While Reynerio Flores is serving an 80-year jail term, he remains one of the most notorious and important leaders of Perrones, one of the most significant cocaine smuggling gangs in…

José Natividad Luna Pereira, alias ‘Chepe Luna’

CHEPE LUNA / 2020-03-10 22:29:20

Once the most powerful boss of the Perrones "transportista" syndicate, Jose Natividad Luna Pereira, alias "Chepe Luna," was murdered in Honduras in June 2014. Before his death, Luna built a…

Investigations

News

EL SALVADOR / 7 JUN 2021

The announcement of the end of El Salvador’s anti-graft commission, which had been backed by the Organization of American States, could be the nail in the coffin for international investigative…

CHEPE DIABLO / 25 MAY 2021

A business magnate who is an alleged leader of El Salvador’s Texis Cartel has escaped justice once again, after a court dropped money laundering charges against him.

EL SALVADOR / 18 MAY 2021

Though far from revelatory, a new list of officials the United States government suspects of corruption and drug trafficking in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras may further roil Washington's relationships…

EL SALVADOR / 11 MAY 2021

A new report suggests women are increasingly playing an active role in the extortion activities of Central American gangs -- part of a larger pattern in which women's roles in…

COVID AND CRIME / 10 MAY 2021

With a new law granting immunity to El Salvador officials accused of mismanaging coronavirus funds and the resignation of a prosecutor looking into pandemic-related spending, President Nayib Bukele and allies…

EL SALVADOR / 3 MAY 2021

The decision by legislators aligned with El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele to oust the country’s top prosecutor may spell the end of several crucial organized crime cases.

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