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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

El Salvador Arrests Thousands but Gangs Keep Their Guns

NEWS / 26 JUL 2022

Almost four months into a nationwide crackdown, El Salvador's government has failed to disarm its notorious street gangs.

US Corruption List in Central America: More Bark, Little Bite

NEWS / 20 JUL 2022

The US government has added dozens of individuals to a list of allegedly corrupt actors in Central America.

Political Connections in El Salvador Help MS13 Leaders Escape Abroad

NEWS / 19 JUL 2022

Amid El Salvador's brutal anti-gang crackdown, one top MS13 leader was escorted out of the country by a government official.

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…

News

EL SALVADOR / 14 JUL 2022

A turnaround in El Salvador’s position on extraditing gang members has come amid US pressure and rumblings in the criminal underworld.

BARRIO 18 / 15 JUN 2022

El Salvador has arrested over 40,000 alleged gang members. This seems shocking but it is not without precedent in the country.

EL SALVADOR / 15 JUN 2022

El Salvador's sweeping crackdown, which has seen over 30,000 people arrested, may in fact drive many desperate young people straight into the arms of the gangs.

EL SALVADOR / 15 JUN 2022

Flaca was devoted to the MS13. But after suffering violence, abuse and rape, she turned to the one escape open to her: religion…

EL SALVADOR / 15 JUN 2022

The MS13 gang and the Pentecostal Church are two worlds seemingly at odds. One man, known as Elvis, has a foot in both.

BELIZE / 2 JUN 2022

Since El Salvador's government began a campaign of mass arrests two months ago in a gang crackdown, fewer than 60 suspected gang members fleeing the country have been arrested in…

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