The MS13

EL SALVADOR / 16 FEB 2018

The Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) is the hemisphere’s largest, most formidable and increasingly its most sophisticated street gang. This ongoing investigative series tackles its evolution from various perspectives.

About this Project

These reports are the result of field work done for a multi-year research initiative evaluating the transnational criminal capacity of the MS13 in the US and El Salvador by InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American & Latino Studies, with funding from the National Institute of Justice.

Chapter 1

Why Trump is Wrong to Blame Migration for MS13 Expansion, Violence

CRIMINAL MIGRATION / 31 JAN 2018

President Donald Trump used his first State of the Union Address to blame the expansion and violence of the MS13 gang in the US on the "deadly loopholes" in the…

Chapter 2

MS13 and International Drug Trafficking: Gang Project vs. Entrepreneurism

EL SALVADOR / 12 FEB 2018

On June 23, 2015, Jaime Alexander Monge and Larry Jesus Navarete were talking on the phone. Monge was in Arkansas. Navarete was in the California state penitentiary system. The two…

Chapter 3

MS13 Violence: Method or Madness?

EL SALVADOR / 13 FEB 2018

There is a telling section in the indictment of alleged MS13 members filed by El Salvador's Attorney General’s Office as part of Operation Jaque. It comes on page 223 of…

Chapter 4

MS13: Hierarchy vs. Federation

EL SALVADOR / 14 FEB 2018

On December 13, 2015, MS13 gang leader Edwin Mancía Flores, alias “Shugar,” made a phone call from a prison in El Salvador. On the other end of the line was…

Chapter 5

MS13 Gang Truce: Social vs. Criminal Capital

EL SALVADOR / 15 FEB 2018

Dany Balmore Romero García was sitting in class at a vocational college in El Salvador when he got a message from a friend. On the news, they were saying the…

Chapter 6

MS13 in the Americas: Major Findings

EL SALVADOR / 16 FEB 2018

The Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) is one of the world’s largest and arguably most violent street gangs. After relatively humble beginnings in Los Angeles in the 1980s, it has spread to…

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BARRIO 18 / 22 NOV 2010

The United Nations and U.S. Southern Command estimate there are approximately 70,000 gang members, or so-called maras, most of them…

EL SALVADOR / 25 MAY 2017

Police chiefs from three different US counties impacted by the MS13 street gang spoke out about policies adopted by President…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

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4 FEB 2021

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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…