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.

Compartir icon icon icon

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.

Related Content

ELITES AND CRIME / 5 SEP 2019

After 12 years, the mandate of a widely heralded international anti-corruption commission has come to an end in Guatemala, but…

BARRIO 18 / 28 APR 2014

El Salvador's outgoing president has blamed a spike in homicides on a faction of the 18th Street gang, and the…

EL SALVADOR / 19 AUG 2016

Former President Mauricio Funes has reportedly left El Salvador on business as authorities raid properties in search for evidence he…

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…