HomeNewsBriefBarrio 18 Members Sentenced to 390 Years for El Salvador Massacre
BRIEF

Barrio 18 Members Sentenced to 390 Years for El Salvador Massacre

BARRIO 18 / 26 MAY 2017 BY TRISTAN CLAVEL EN

Seven gang members were each condemned to 390 years in prison for the murder of eleven people in El Salvador -- a symbolic judgement involving a massacre that was instrumental in the introduction of tough anti-gang measures by the government.

On May 24, a judge sentenced each of the seven suspects to 35 years behind bars per murder, with an additional five years for criminal association, according to a press release from the Attorney General's Office. The individuals, who were found guilty of the March 2016 San Juan Opico massacre, are all reportedly members of the Barrio 18 gang.

SEE ALSO: Barrio 18 News and Profile

The massacre captured significant attention in the country at the time, as the victims appeared to have simply been at the wrong place at the wrong time. Eight of the victims were employees of an electrical company working on repairs, and three others were agricultural day laborers.

Authorities first blamed the MS13 gang, which denied any responsibility. Nonetheless, the massacre was a milestone in the government's campaign to implement a package of "extraordinary measures" a month later. These intensified security measures for incarcerated gang members, cutting off the prisoners from the outside world.

El Salvador's Attorney General Douglas Meléndez applauded the sentencing and emphasized the role that scientific evidence played in the prosecution's success. The prosecution had initially petitioned for 330 year sentences, according to La Prensa Gráfica.

InSight Crime Analysis

The seven prison sentences nearing four centuries for every single one of the accused is, on its face, absurd, especially given that El Salvador's legislation establishes a maximum of 60 years in prison before an inmate is automatically released, according to La Prensa Gráfica.

But the sentences are highly symbolic, as the San Juan Opico massacre created a wave of support that the government successfully rode to implement a security policy that remains in effect. Indeed, El Salvador renewed the now not-so extraordinary package until 2018, after having extended the measures throughout the penitentiary system.

As InSight Crime previously reported, given the uncertain results of these extraordinary measures and the eroding public support for the policy, the government's insistence on maintaining the measures part of some sort of negotiation with the gangs, although authorities have officially refused to take up the criminal groups on their offer to establish a truce to slow the violence. What's more, by bringing back the San Juan Opico to news headlines, the symbolic judgement may prompt renewed support for the policy.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

From a purely judicial point of view, the judgement shows that El Salvador's prosecutors can, in a context of significant public and political pressure, succeed in seeing a complex case through to a conviction. This is a positive sign given that both gang members and security officers are often believed to kill with impunity. Between 2011 and 2014, less than 6 percent of murders led to convictions in El Salvador.

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.

DONATE

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.

DONATE

Related Content

BARRIO 18 / 15 MAR 2012

A new report by El Faro suggests that El Salvador's government may have struck a deal with its two largest…

GUATEMALA / 4 MAY 2017

In our May 4 Facebook Live session, Co-director Steven Dudley spoke with Senior Edior Mike LaSusa about InSight Crime's…

EL SALVADOR / 16 DEC 2010

Three months after the government passed a tough new law criminalizing gang membership, El Salvador’s Attorney General has yet to…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…