HomeNewsBrief480 Gang Members Infiltrated El Salvador Security Forces: Report
BRIEF

480 Gang Members Infiltrated El Salvador Security Forces: Report

BARRIO 18 / 22 FEB 2016 BY MIMI YAGOUB EN

Over 480 gang members or collaborators reportedly infiltrated El Salvador's armed forces and police between 2010 and 2015, but these figures are likely inflating the gangs' true level of influence within the security institutions. 

Over the past five years, at least 435 members of the armed forces were fired for being gang members or having ties to gangs, according to data by the Defense Ministry's Public Information Access Unit that was accessed by EFE. The military officials' alleged gang affiliations were not divulged, despite requests from EFE that this information be provided.

Another 39 aspiring police officers were expelled from the National Public Security Academy over the same period, of which 25 "belonged to" the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS13, while 13 were from the Barrio 18 gang. Nine more active police officers were also dismissed for alleged gang ties over the five years.

SEE ALSO:  MS13 News and Profile

Among the military officials dismissed from their posts were members of specialized units, including the Presidential Guard and the Special Forces Command.

2015 was by far the year with the most dismissals from the armed forces due to gang ties with 265 cases, an almost 200 percent increase from the number of cases reported in 2014, according to EFE. (See graph below)

InSight Crime Analysis

To be sure, corruption within El Salvador's security forces is a critical issue. But the notion that nearly 500 gang members have infiltrated the security forces since 2010 should be taken with a grain of salt.

As recent InSight Crime field research has found, the number of gang members in Central America's Northern Triangle region (El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala) varies widely, depending on the agency doing the counting. This is due, in part, to the confusion over what does and does not constitute a gang member. 

For example, police officials may include girlfriends, lookouts, and family members as part of a gang, even though they are not core members and are not considered members by the gangs themselves. Although a collaborator and a full-fledged member have vastly different roles within the gang, they are often lumped together in statistics such as those in the Defense Ministry report. 

SEE ALSO:  El Salvador News and Profiles

These statistics can also be self-serving. If gang infiltration is seen as a serious and credible threat, it follows that the government will be more likely to allocate greater resources to the security forces in order to combat these seemingly sophisticated criminal organizations. In reality, El Salvador's street gangs are more akin to subsistence groups that are occasionally involved in high-level criminal operations.  

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 / 28 MAR 2022

A killing spree unlike anything seen since El Salvador’s civil war has delivered a macabre message from the country’s street…

EL SALVADOR / 5 JUL 2021

The United States has released a highly-anticipated report on corrupt actors in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, but the lack…

COVID AND CRIME / 10 MAY 2021

With a new law granting immunity to El Salvador officials accused of mismanaging coronavirus funds and the resignation of a…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…