HomeNewsBriefEl Salvador Authorities Expose Financial Interests of MS13 Leaders
BRIEF

El Salvador Authorities Expose Financial Interests of MS13 Leaders

EL SALVADOR / 29 JUL 2016 BY JAMES BARGENT EN

One of the largest operations ever launched against El Salvador's MS13 gang confirmed what has long been suspected -- the gang's leadership maintain extensive and sophisticated financial networks that extend far beyond the violence plagued barrios controlled by their rank and file members.

On July 28, Salvadoran prosecutors presented the first results of "Operación Jaque" (Operation Check), an unprecedented assault on the finances of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang. The operation has so far led to the issuing of 120 arrest warrants and 157 raids on gang linked businesses and properties, reported La Prensa Gráfica.

Among the business interests targeted were motels, bars, brothels, bus and taxi companies, garages and car dealerships, El Faro reported. The arrest warrants included numerous alleged frontmen and the gangs alleged finance chief, along with eight gang members identified by the authorities as the MS13's principal leaders. Authorities have so far captured 77 people, including five of the eight leaders, but they believe the other leaders have escaped to Guatemala or Mexico, according to El Faro.

According to Attorney General Douglas Meléndez, cited in El Faro, the networks were managed by gang leaders and their collaborators and provided few benefits for the rank and file who operate on a street level.

"There is a clear difference between the leaders and the gang members," he said. "Most gang members live in deplorable, very depressed places. The gang leaders have been personally profiting from the structure."

InSight Crime Analysis

The exposure of these financial networks confirms the claims of numerous analysts and authorities -- the MS13 in El Salvador has evolved significantly past its origins as a street gang focused on maintaining neighborhood level territories and criminal activities.

The extent and level of sophistication of its business interests are instead more reminiscent of major drug trafficking cartels and their vast business networks, which not only launder criminal profits but also generate revenues that can eclipse those from street level crimes of extortion and micro-trafficking.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives and Negatives

However, as prosecutors note, those behind these financial networks -- and those benefiting from them -- were not the MS13 rank and file but the leadership. The MS13 has always presented itself as a horizontally organized network, but this latest investigation suggests a much more top-down hierarchically organized structure, at least in the area of finances.

Nevertheless, with gang rules severely punishing those that personally profit from gang activities instead of distributing profits, the discovery the leadership were making huge profits not shared with the rank and file may well strain relations between the street level gang cells that provide muscle and revenue and leaders who reap the benefits.

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

EL SALVADOR / 9 MAR 2011

El Salvador's infamous street gangs, including the Mara Salvatruchas (MS-13), are getting more deeply involved in drug trafficking and are…

BARRIO 18 / 19 JUL 2017

Authorities in Mexico's southern border region have detained a growing number of gang members in 2017. Their affiliation, however,…

EL SALVADOR / 9 MAY 2012

Four years after several of its members were arrested, the Perrones, El Salvador's formidable illicit transport organization, has quietly regrouped,…

About InSight Crime

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…

THE ORGANIZATION

Coverage of Fallen Paraguay Prosecutor Makes Headlines

20 MAY 2022

The murder of leading anti-crime prosecutor, Marcelo Pecci, while on honeymoon in Colombia, has drawn attention to the evolution of organized crime in Paraguay. While 17 people have been arrested…