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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's Bitcoin Bonuses Bilked by Hackers

NEWS / 20 OCT 2021

A month after El Salvador’s government introduced Bitcoin as a national currency, an illegal corner of the new economy has emerged: the widespread theft of the $30 deposits used as…

Top El Salvador Officials Embroiled in Food Aid Theft Investigation

NEWS / 21 SEP 2021

A scrapped investigation into alleged food aid theft by officials in the administration of El Salvador President Nayib Bukele has provided the first clear evidence that the government has systematically…

Evidence of Gang Negotiations Belie El Salvador President’s Claims

NEWS / 24 AUG 2021

A scrapped investigation by El Salvador’s former Attorney General has revealed a massive trove of evidence that the administration of President Nayib Bukele secretly negotiated with three of the country’s…

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

EL SALVADOR / 5 AUG 2021

In two separate cases in El Salvador, mayors are accused of heading migrant smuggling rings, a crime that, like drug trafficking, local officials in border regions are well…

EL SALVADOR / 5 JUL 2021

The United States has released a highly-anticipated report on corrupt actors in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, but the lack of clear criteria for those placed on the list may…

EL SALVADOR / 1 JUL 2021

Multiple sources from the United States and El Salvador say the recent decision to temporarily halt the extradition of several top MS13 leaders to face US charges may be related…

EL SALVADOR / 23 JUN 2021

On the eve of the extradition of top leaders of El Salvador’s feared Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang to the United States on terrorism charges, InSight Crime recounts the story of…

EL SALVADOR / 7 JUN 2021

The announcement of the end of El Salvador’s anti-graft commission, which had been backed by the Organization of American States, could be the nail in the coffin for international investigative…

CHEPE DIABLO / 25 MAY 2021

A business magnate who is an alleged leader of El Salvador’s Texis Cartel has escaped justice once again, after a court dropped money laundering charges against him.

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