There is a minor presence of transnational organized crime in Morazán. Modest quantities of livestock and foodstuffs are smuggled over unmonitored roads along the department’s border with Honduras.
There is a small illicit market for drugs that appears to be controlled by the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) street gang.
MS13: The MS13’s presence has been noted in many of Morazán’s municipalities, including departmental capital San Francisco Gotera. Like elsewhere in El Salvador, the gang’s members have access to light firearms such as handguns.
Arms Trafficking: There does not appear to be a significant black market for illicit firearms in Morazán. However, the thriving arms trafficking economies in San Miguel and La Unión may spill over into the department. The MS13 is an active buyer of illegal firearms, but the gang has only a minor presence in the department and does not appear to be involved in major turf wars with other criminal groups.
Cocaine: There is no evidence of a significant cocaine economy in Morazán, though there are minor seizures of cocaine destined for local consumption. The MS13 appears to be involved in small-scale cocaine dealing.
Cannabis: There is no reported production of marijuana in Morazán. There have been some small cannabis seizures, suggesting there is a modest local consumption market that may involve the MS13.
Human Trafficking: Human trafficking appears to be a small criminal economy in Morazán. There are some reports of children being subjected to forced labor and sexual exploitation; the latter may occur in brothels, which double up as retail spots for drugs.
Human Smuggling: We estimate that just over 1,000 Salvadoran migrants were returned to Morazán 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 criminal economy, reaching millions of dollars. In addition to smugglers, individuals known as “comisionistas” (comission agents) purportedly operate in the department, seeking out new clients for a fee of a few hundred dollars.
Extortion: Morazán has relatively low extortion rates compared to other parts of El Salvador. The use of security cameras in departmental capital, San Francisco Gotera, appears to have helped with policing extortion rackets.
Contraband: There is some evidence of contraband smuggling through Morazán, usually involving individual, small-time traders who transport livestock and foodstuffs between El Salvador and Honduras.
Sources: This profile is based on a field investigation in Morazán and research in San Salvador, where InSight Crime interviewed high-ranking municipal officials in San Francisco Gotera, in addition to current and former national police officials. InSight Crime also drew from information provided by the Government of El Salvador, the Economic Ministry’s General Directory of Statistics and Censuses (Dirección General de Estadística y Censos), police extortion data, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), El Salvador-based Diálogos think tank, and local press.