Gangs, Vendors and Political Capital in Downtown San Salvador

EL SALVADOR / 1 OCT 2020

In San Salvador’s bustling Historic Center, nothing gets done without going through the gangs.

The notorious Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18 street gangs have steadily tightened their grip on almost all aspects of life in a city center housing the heart of El Salvador’s informal urban markets – a gold mine for extortion, contraband, drug-peddling, and more.

This two-year InSight Crime investigation chronicles how the gangs, with their ever-increasing control of territory and criminal revenue, have used their stranglehold on the Historic Center to expand their power in El Salvador.

The center is crucial to the gang’s political awakening – a reality which has brought with it a host of alliances and negotiations with politicians of all parties, from municipal officials to the halls of Nayib Bukele’s presidential palace.

Chapter 1

How El Salvador President Bukele Deals with Gangs

BARRIO 18 / 1 OCT 2020

It was late 2016 and officials in San Salvador were preparing for the grand opening of a sparkling new market in the city’s Historic Center.

Chapter 2

From Predators to Partners: How Gangs are Taking San Salvador

BARRIO 18 / 1 OCT 2020

This is the second part of a three-part series on San Salvador’s Historic Center, the heart of the country’s informal urban markets and a long-time bastion of the street gangs.

Chapter 3

The ‘Protection Racket,’ Gangs and Violence in San Salvador

BARRIO 18 / 1 OCT 2020

For San Salvador resident Humberto Reyes, a sunny morning in the Historic Center’s sprawling markets began with two shots in the back of the head.

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About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.

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