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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

Will Soaring Arrests in El Salvador Overwhelm its Prisons?

NEWS / 16 MAY 2022

As part of his sweeping gang crackdown, El Salvador President Nayib Bukele has overseen the mass imprisonment of tens of thousands of people, potentially jeopardizing recent efforts to mitigate overcrowding…

How MS13 Gang Members in El Salvador Control Their Partners from Prisons

NEWS / 28 APR 2022

Gang members' romantic partners are often also their victims, subordinate to the whims of their companions. MS13 members have been able to exploit these connections to dominate the lives of…

The Beast Behind the Red Light: MS13 and Prostitution

NEWS / 28 APR 2022

The notorious MS13 street gang boasts a diverse criminal portfolio – including prostitution. Through violence, abuse and intimidation, the gang has steadily gained control of this illicit economy on the…

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 / MARCH 9, 2020

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

BARRIO 18 / 12 APR 2022

With a near unprecedented wave of arrests, the El Salvador government is doubling down and expanding on heavy-handed security policies, known as mano dura, that have consistently failed to yield…

EL SALVADOR / 31 MAR 2022

Between July 2021 and February 2022, the government of President Nayib Bukele released four top leaders of the MS13 in El Salvador, all of whom were facing extradition to the…

BARRIO 18 / 28 MAR 2022

A killing spree unlike anything seen since El Salvador’s civil war has delivered a macabre message from the country’s street gangs, which have learned that spikes in homicides speak to…

BRAZIL / 24 MAR 2022

The 2021 ranking of the world's most violent cities predictably features a heavy presence by Latin American and Caribbean population centers. The top eight are all in Mexico and the…

BARRIO 18 / 1 MAR 2022

Dozens of Barrio 18 members in El Salvador allegedly conspired with street vendors to divert pandemic relief funds.

BARRIO 18 / 1 MAR 2022

Fired prison employees in El Salvador have claimed they witnessed negotiations among government officials and imprisoned gang leaders, adding weight to allegations the country's prison director helped broker a pact…

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