HomeNewsBriefAre Central American Gangs Growing in Southern Mexico?
BRIEF

Are Central American Gangs Growing in Southern Mexico?

BARRIO 18 / 19 JUL 2017 BY PARKER ASMANN EN

Authorities in Mexico’s southern border region have detained a growing number of gang members in 2017. Their affiliation, however, is reportedly with two Central American gangs, the MS13 and Barrio 18, raising questions about whether or not these crime groups are having a resurgence in Mexico.

So far in 2017, authorities in Mexico’s southeastern state of Chiapas, which shares a border with Guatemala, have detained 148 gang members believed to be affiliated with Central American “maras,” as the MS13 and Barrio 18 are known locally.

This figure is more than ten times the total number of mara-affiliated gang members (13) the state detained in 2016, according to statistics from the Chiapas Security and Citizen Protection Secretariat (Secretaría de Seguridad y Protección Ciudadana del estado de Chiapas), El Sol de México reported

However, the detained gang members are not solely Central American. Forty-four percent of those detained were Salvadoran, 36 percent were Mexican and 20 percent were Honduran, though all of them identified with either the Barrio 18 (55 percent) or the MS13 (45 percent).

Violence in Chiapas has also reportedly increased with the return of Central American maras, according to El Sol de México. Twenty-eight homicides have been committed so far this year by members of the gangs, double the 14 homicides committed in 2016 and triple the seven homicides committed in 2015. 

InSight Crime Analysis 

If these numbers are to be believed, the presence of Central American maras in Mexico is not new. While the maras are a Central American brand, they are multinational organizations whose ranks are filled with members from around the region. Both the MS13 and Barrio 18 have expanded to Europe and established a presence in Spain and Italy in the past, and they maintain a strong foothold in many areas of the United States. 

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

One theory behind why the gangs are trying to expand into Mexico is that they are seeking the help of locals to “open a drug corridor” in order to capitalize on the weakening of the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels. But the maras have tried this before, and both the MS13 and Barrio 18 “do not yet appear to be a formal part of the transnational drug logistics chain,” according to the US State Department.

Drug routes naturally flow through Mexico’s highly disputed southern border region, and Central American gangs would have to work with Mexican organizations in order to use them. But the uptick in the number of detained gang member affiliated with the maras may be more related to increased enforcement, rather than a sign of their expansion into transnational drug 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 / 12 JUL 2017

A case against the MS13 operating in El Salvador's capital city shows how the gang's money laundering side is getting…

MEXICO / 4 DEC 2017

Lawmakers in Mexico moved one step closer to cementing the military’s role in the fight against organized crime,…

KNIGHTS TEMPLAR / 31 AUG 2012

A banner hung by Mexican criminal group the Knights Templar declares their intention to persecute Zetas leader Miguel Angel Treviño,…

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…