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.

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

METHAMPHETAMINE / 14 MAY 2012

Officials in Mexico seized another 136 tons of precursor chemicals originating from China, pointing to that country's role as a…

MEXICO / 5 NOV 2010

The Tijuana Cartel, also known as the Arellano Felix Organization, is based in one of the most strategically important border…

EUROPE CRIME / 14 MAY 2014

A court ruling in Spain deeming a gang with roots in the Dominican Republic a "criminal organization" shows growing concern…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.