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 / 25 AUG 2014

Homicide cases involving minors in Guatemala have risen significantly in 2014, another indication of the high level of violence in…

EL SALVADOR / 7 JUN 2019

The MS13 in Honduras has gone from shaking down motorcycle taxi drivers to owning fleets of the bikes and controlling…

EL SALVADOR / 25 JUL 2013

When the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on six Salvadoran leaders of the MS-13, only one of them is described…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…