HomeNewsAnalysisEl Salvador Discovers New 'Guerrilla' Group

El Salvador Discovers New 'Guerrilla' Group


Authorities in El Salvador say they arrested five people and seized "revolutionary propaganda" belonging to a guerrilla group, but government officials have made such claims before, with little to back them up.

Police engaged in a shootout with a group of at least 10 people in eastern Sesori, San Miguel department on February 15. Five people were detained, two of them wounded during the 15-minute firefight. At least one of them was found wearing a police uniform.

Afterwards, Security and Justice Minister David Munguia Payes said police found an AK-47, materials for making bombs, and "revolutionary propaganda" at the campsite. He called the detainees an "irregular armed group" and said he could not give more details about the ideological literature reportedly found at the scene.

"I don't think this is related to gangs. The strange thing is the propaganda," Payes said.

The police subdirector general confirmed Payes' report, stating that the propaganda could not be linked to any political party in El Salvador. The country's ruling party, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), originally formed from a coalition of guerrilla organizations which fought the 1980-1992 civil war against the military junta.

According to El Faro, Payes claimed that one of the detainees, a woman, said that the guerrilla group was actually politically opposed to the FMLN. She also implied that the group received help from some noted public figures and government organizations, Payes added.

Subdirector of Police Investigations Hector Mendoza went further, and said that the group referred themselves as "the new guerrilla" of El Salvador, adapting the name the "Popular Armed Revolutionary Forces of January 22," according to a report from El Diario de Hoy. One of the detainees is a former guerrilla wanted on kidnapping charges, and there is evidence of at least four other cells active in other parts of El Salvador connected with the guerrilla group, Mendoza said. He added that there was enough evidence to charge the group with terrorist activity.

However, the Attorney General's Office countered there was not enough evidence to support terrorism charges, nor to warrant the description of the organization as an "illegal armed group."

It is not the first time that government officials and media outlets have warned against the presence of "armed groups" remaining in El Salvador's countryside. In the past, such allegations have appeared intended to create damaging associations with the FMLN. Talk of "armed groups" was particularly common just before the FMLN won its majority in the municipal and legislative elections of January 2009. Two months later, the party won the presidential elections with Mauricio Funes as its candidate.

In December 2008, Diario del Hoy published a cover story which stated "The FMLN supports armed groups." The story quoted then-Security and Justice Minister Rene Figueora, who said there were more than 40 armed groups active inside the country. The groups were supposedly active in the same region controlled by the FMLN during the civil war. El Salvador's National Security Council (CSN) backed up the assertions, saying that the groups were armed with Galil rifles and AK-47s, and were training child soldiers. Such groups had been "operating clandestinely" in the country since the 1992 Peace Accords, the CSN secretary said.

Funes' predecessor as president, Antonio Saca, also spoke of the threat of "armed groups" during the late 2008 election season. He said that such groups were behind heated protests against water privatization efforts in El Paisnal municipality, which broke out in July 2007. He added that an armed group had attempted to fire on the presidential helicopter when he was touring the area.

All of this supposed intelligence spoke of "armed groups" as most active in western El Salvador; none of the allegations mentioned San Miguel department as an area of interest. And despite assertions by the CSN that there were maps, pictures, and intelligence to back up the existence of these groups, since 2009 there have been few reports of any "guerrilla" activity. Indeed, during the FMLN's reign in power, there has been little evidence that alleged "armed groups" in the countryside, if they exist, pose a significant threat to national security.

El Salvador is set to hold Congressional elections on March 11. Unless authorities release harder evidence that the alleged "revolutionary" group in San Miguel preached a political ideology, and were capable of posing a significant threat to public security, they may face accusations of playing a political game.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content


Extortion in Latin America continues to bring in fortunes for criminal gangs. So how do they do it?…

BOLIVIA / 8 MAR 2023

InSight Crime reviews Latin America and the Caribbean's cocaine seizure date from 2022 to find out what it reveals about…

BARRIO 18 / 26 JUL 2022

Almost four months into a nationwide crackdown, El Salvador's government has failed to disarm its notorious street gangs.

About InSight Crime


All Eyes on Ecuador

2 JUN 2023

Our coverage of organized crime in Ecuador continues to be a valuable resource for international and local news outlets. Internationally, Reuters cited our 2022 Homicide Round-Up,…


Open Position: Social Media and Engagement Strategist

27 MAY 2023

InSight Crime is looking for a Social Media and Engagement Strategist who will be focused on maintaining and improving InSight Crime’s reputation and interaction with its audiences through publishing activities…


Venezuela Coverage Receives Great Reception

27 MAY 2023

Several of InSight Crime’s most recent articles about Venezuela have been well received by regional media. Our article on Venezuela’s colectivos expanding beyond their political role to control access to…


InSight Crime's Chemical Precursor Report Continues

19 MAY 2023

For the second week in a row, our investigation into the flow of precursor chemicals for the manufacture of synthetic drugs in Mexico has been cited by multiple regional media…


InSight Crime’s Chemical Precursor Report Widely Cited


We are proud to see that our recently published investigation into the supply chain of chemical precursors feeding Mexico’s synthetic drug production has been warmly received.