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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

Women Taking Bigger Role in Central America Extortion Schemes

NEWS / 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…

Pandemic Spending Immunity Deepens El Salvador Corruption Concerns

NEWS / 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…

Ousting of El Salvador’s Top Prosecutor Imperils Rule of Law

NEWS / 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.

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.



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.

José Adán Salazar Umaña, alias ‘Chepe Diablo’

CHEPE DIABLO / 2017-05-04 16:38:54

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…

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…



BARRIO 18 / 25 APR 2021

The ideas of masculinity, discrimination and homophobia within El Salvador's gangs are at the heart of "Unforgivable," a documentary who explores how these under-reported topics affect gang violence.


A recently published report warns that pacts made between gangs and public officials to lower homicides in El Salvador will only promote the wider use of forced disappearances…


El Salvador President Nayib Bukele has appointed a new security minister whose alleged ties to officials and political operators accused of corruption raise concerns about the government's commitment to transparent…

BARRIO 18 / 24 MAR 2021

Though a relatively minor player in the transnational drug trade, El Salvador's overland smuggling routes have undergone a moderate revival and some factions of the country's largest street gang --…


A US federal appeals court has delayed the deportation of a former MS13 member to El Salvador, ruling that his status as a former gang member puts him in a…


Hopes are high in the Northern Triangle, that the arrival of Joseph Biden and his administration to the White House will lead to the creation of a regional commission that…