HomeEl SalvadorCabañas, El Salvador
EL SALVADOR

Cabañas, El Salvador

GEOGRAPHIC PROFILES / 22 MAR 2021 BY INSIGHT CRIME EN

Aside from some contraband smuggling between Cabañas and neighboring Honduras, there is no indication that the department is involved in any major transnational crime. Street gangs such as the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18 engage in local drug dealing and their members possess illegal firearms. However, nothing suggests that these criminal markets stretch beyond the department’s borders.  

Criminal Actors 

MS13: The MS13 reportedly has a presence in the departmental capital, Sensuntepeque, and the municipalities of Ilobasco and San Isidrio, where a gang cell known as the Francis Locos Salvatruchos operates. In these areas, the gang is thought to be the main driver of homicides and extortion committed against civilians and other societal sectors. 

Criminal Economies 

Arms Trafficking: The MS13 is present in Cabañas, and the gang’s members routinely use illicit firearms, meaning there is at least a modest black market for weapons in the department. Illegal weapons may be sourced through bribery or leaked from state stockpiles that were meant to be destroyed. 

Cannabis: Marijuana is sold in areas of Cabañas with an active gang presence, including the Ilobasco prison, where hundreds of gang members are housed. Cabañas is of less strategic importance in comparison to gang strongholds in major urban areas, meaning the cannabis trafficking economy is likely a modest one. 

Human Smuggling: We estimate that just over 1,100 migrants were returned to Cabañas from the US and Mexico in 2019. Given the price of hiring a smuggler in the area (roughly $10,000), this appears to be a lucrative economy, reaching millions of dollars. Smugglers reportedly operate in Ilobasco and Sensuntepeque, where they assist and recruit migrants.  

Extortion: Reported extortion cases are fairly low in Cabañas compared to other parts of El Salvador, but those living and working in areas with a gang presence still suffer from this crime, including public transport workers, local business owners and municipal officials. In 2019, Sensuntepeque was prioritized in government plans for tackling gang-related crime at the national level.  

Sources: This profile is based on a field investigation in San Salvador, where InSight Crime interviewed national anti-narcotics police, former high-ranking police officials with knowledge of gang activity, and local journalists. InSight Crime also drew from information provided by the Government of El Salvador, the Economic Ministry’s General Direction of Statistics and Censuses (Dirección General de Estadística y Censos), municipal extortion data, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the El Salvador-based Diálogos think tank, and local press.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 25 FEB 2021

Alto Paraná is home to some of Paraguay’s most dynamic criminal economies. Contraband goods continue to flood Brazil and Argentina…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 25 FEB 2021

In Concepción, powerful drug traffickers have penetrated local politics. With corruption rife, some municipalities have started to resemble criminal enclaves.

CLAN ROTELA / 25 FEB 2021

Misiones does not play an important role in regional criminal dynamics, despite some marijuana trafficking in the department.

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.