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.

Related Content

EL SALVADOR / 18 APR 2013

Most of the 5,300 children and adolescents murdered in El Salvador between 2005 and 2011 were out of school and…

CARSI / 7 JUN 2011

The three-day summit of the Organization of American States (OAS) concluded Tuesday in El Salvador with few concrete results to…

EL SALVADOR / 27 AUG 2013

A scheme that placed undercover police officers and soldiers on board El Salvador buses to combat extortion and robbery…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…

icon #SupportFreePress
image

Support Our Work

Investigating organized crime is an expensive and often risky enterprise. Reaching primary sources and getting the real story involve extensive fieldwork. Please donate. Every dollar supports our mission.

DONATE NOW image