HomeNewsBriefAre Salvadoran ‘Maras’ Infiltrating Belize?
BRIEF

Are Salvadoran ‘Maras’ Infiltrating Belize?

BARRIO 18 / 19 JUL 2012 BY CHRISTOPHER LOOFT EN

El Salvador’s “mara” gangs may be moving into Belize, according to reports, with both the MS-13 and Barrio 18 having a presence in the capital of the tiny Caribbean country.

According to a report by La Prensa Grafica, El Salvador’s maras have increased their presence in Belize over the last decade. The article cited police reports which say that El Salvador’s two largest gangs, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18, have a presence in the country’s capital, Belmopan. Other police reports suggest that in the district of Cayo, where Belmopan is located, an unnamed Salvadoran gang with 400 members operates with impunity. There is a large Salvadoran community in Belize — the Foreign Ministry estimates that around a fifth of the 315,000 or so people living in the country are Salvadoran citizens, according to the newspaper.

One reason for the growth in gang activity in Belize could be the use of the free economic zone in Corozal, close to the Mexican border, for contraband smuggling. Another report by Prensa Grafica detailed the rise in smuggling of goods bought in this zone, which are illegally taken into Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico.

InSight Crime Analysis

The reports of increased presence of Salvadoran gangs in Belize lack detail, but could be a worrying sign for the authorities. El Salvador had one of the highest murder rates in the world last year, at 72 per 100,000, which the government blames largely on gang violence.

Belize also has local gangs. A truce made between 13 gangs in Belize City last year brought a sharp reduction in violence, but now appears to be fracturing.

Last year, the White House placed Belize on a watch list of countries involved in the international drug trade. The murder rate has climbed to about 40 per 100,000 people, outstripping Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica, which all have rates of below 25, and edging past Guatemala, which had an estimated 38 last year.

The Corozal free economic zone seems to have prompted smugglers to take advantage of its cheap prices to make a profit, which could open the door for more serious organized criminal activity. There is precedent for this: Paraguay’s Ciudad del Este, in the tri-border area of Brazil and Argentina, is both a cheap retail destination (due largely to the availability of smuggled and counterfeit goods) and a key hub of drug, arms and human trafficking.

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.

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

EL SALVADOR / 26 MAR 2014

Police say a now dismantled cell of the MS13 in Spain was led by Salvadorans sent to set up a…

BARRIO 18 / 22 DEC 2016

A new study argues that powerful street gangs have gone a long way toward creating a parallel state in El…

BARRIO 18 / 12 JUN 2013

An investigation by Guatemala's Interior Ministry has identified over 54 drug trafficking organizations within the country, including independent…

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…