HomeNewsBriefArrest of Top MS13 Gang Leader in Guatemala Highlights Cooperation
BRIEF

Arrest of Top MS13 Gang Leader in Guatemala Highlights Cooperation

CRIMINAL MIGRATION / 11 APR 2017 BY TRISTAN CLAVEL EN

The arrest in Guatemala of a high-ranking MS13 leader wanted by El Salvador's authorities illustrates how regional cooperation yields results, even while raising questions on how best to tackle the regional migration of the powerful gang members.

Officers of Guatemala's National Civil Police and the Transnational Anti-Gang Center (Centro Antipandillas Transnacional) arrested the Salvadoran national Pedro Benjamín Rivas Zelaya -- also known as José Isaías Flores de Paz, or "El Sniper" -- one of the top leaders of the MS13 gang in El Salvador, Guatemala's Interior Ministry announced in a press release on April 11.

Rivas Zelaya was arrested in San Cristóbal City near Guatemala City during an anti-extortion operation. The sting also led to the apprehension of Cristian David Fuentes Ajosal, alias "Baby," the suspected leader of the MS13 clique "Los Mafiosos," reported La Hora.

SEE ALSO: MS13 News and Profile

According to Prensa Libre, Rivas Zelaya, who is facing extradition to El Salvador, is a member of the MS13's "Federation," a top command group operating outside of prison and set up by the gang's top hierarchy comprised of incarcerated leaders in El Salvador.

Sniper indeed appears in the 2016 indictment brought forth by El Salvador authorities against the highest-ranking leaders of the MS13 and in relation to "Operation Checkmate" (Operación Jacque), which targeted the MS13's financial structure.

According to the indictment, Rivas Zelaya faces charges related to homicide, drugs and arms trafficking, as well as participating in a terrorist organization (El Salvador's Legislative Assembly and its Supreme Court have both classified gangs as terrorist organizations.)

This is not the first time the MS13 gang leader has come up as part of a Guatemalan inquiry. In July 2016, El Mundo reported that El Salvador's Attorney General Douglas Meléndez said Rivas Zelaya was attempting to buy weapons from the Sinaloa Cartel or the Zetas in Guatemala, as part of an alleged MS13 plan to create an elite unit.

InSight Crime Analysis

Rivas Zelaya's arrest appears to be the latest example of MS13 members migrating between Northern Triangle countries (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras), either to evade capture by authorities or to establish criminal operations abroad

These criminal migration trends have pushed the Northern Triangle countries to look for more mechanisms for cooperation, the latest of which was a trinational force launched in November 2016.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Criminal Migration

But while Rivas Zelaya's arrest certainly highlights the necessity of heightened cooperation between the three countries, it is important to note that it was the result of a longstanding regional program, namely the Transnational Anti-Gang Centers. These were created in each of the Northern Triangle countries in 2007, in partnership with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The role of these centers in the arrest of Rivas Zelaya could thus rather point to the need to strengthen and develop existing mechanisms, rather than repeatedly add new, untested layers of cooperation.

Normal
0

21

false
false
false

FR
X-NONE
X-NONE

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 / 17 JUL 2015

In a letter addressed to government officials, gang leaders in El Salvador have called for the reinstatement of a gang…

GUATEMALA / 28 MAR 2017

Central American undocumented migrants are shifting to maritime transportation, according to a recent report, likely as a result of Mexico's…

GUATEMALA / 19 JAN 2011

The Leones traditionally operated along Guatemala's eastern border with Honduras and El Salvador, and were car thieves and cattle rustlers…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…