HomeNewsBriefEl Salvador Gang Leaders Order End to Killing
BRIEF

El Salvador Gang Leaders Order End to Killing

BARRIO 18 / 28 MAR 2016 BY ELISE DITTA EN

Purported gang leaders in El Salvador have instructed rank and file members to stop committing homicides, but it's unclear if the gangs possess the organizational cohesion to adhere to the orders. 

On March 26, individuals who said they were representatives of the MS13 and two factions of the Barrio 18 announced in a video circulated by local TV that they had issued a directive to all their members to put an end to gang violence. (See video below)

A masked speaker said the gangs were taking this action to "show that...it is not necessary to implement measures that violate our constitution."

The spokesperson was likely referring to the Salvadoran government's plan to implement emergency measures in some neighborhoods that would limit rights to public assembly and movement. Additional measures are aimed at gaining greater control over the country's prison system.

The representative closed with a warning to the government, saying that it will "not be able to put an end to the gangs" since they are "part of the Salvadoran community."

In response to the video, Eugenio Chicas, spokesman for President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, said the government would not negotiate with gangs, reported La Prensa Grafica. Chicas also said the planned implementation of the emergency measures will be carried out on schedule.

On March 26, National Civil Police Director Howard Cotto questioned the validity of the video, saying gang messages have previously been disseminated that were later found to be fake. 

InSight Crime Analysis

There are indications that the video may be credible. Raul Mijango, a principal mediator involved in El Salvador's 2012 gang truce, told the Associated Press that he "had previously received some information that [the gangs] were thinking about sending a message." In addition, the journalist who published the video has been known to publish credible gang messages in the past.

But even if the video is legitimate, there are questions about whether gang leaders have enough control over their base to significantly reduce homicides. According to the police, there were 17 homicides nationwide on Saturday and nine on Sunday, for a weekend average of 13 per day. That is roughly half of the daily average of 23 homicides in days leading up to the weekend, but more time and data is needed to determine if this represents a trend.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

The 2012 truce between the Barrio 18 and MS13 initially led to a dramatic drop in homicides. After the unraveling of the truce, however, authorities sent imprisoned gang leadership back to maximum-security facilities, providing an opportunity for mid-ranking members unhappy with the truce to take more control. The gangs now appear to be fracturing into smaller, competing cells that owe less allegiance to the central leadership. This gang atomization process is believed to be a key reason why murders in El Salvador skyrocketed to over 100 per 100,000 residents last year, the highest homicide rate of any nation in the world not at war. 

Meanwhile, the government's response to the video reaffirms its opposition to cooperating with the gangs in any fashion. The Sánchez Cerén administration has steadfastly refused to restart negotiations, and security officials have instead employed increasingly heavy-handed policing tactics to combat the gangs.  

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 / 8 APR 2016

Authorities in El Salvador are proposing to toughen legislation against minors in order to combat the growth of gangs, a…

EL SALVADOR / 23 APR 2014

In the past three years, 48,947 people were murdered in the Northern Triangle, the most violent region of the world,…

EL SALVADOR / 13 JUN 2018

El Salvador has not sparked as much attention as its neighbors when it comes to corruption scandals but a catalogue of…

About InSight Crime

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.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…

THE ORGANIZATION

Exploring Climate Change and Organized Crime

10 SEP 2021

In July, InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley moderated a panel for the Climate Reality Project's regional series of workshops for young climate activists in the Americas. The week-long event…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gearing Up a New Class of Interns

3 SEP 2021

InSight Crime is readying its newest class of interns – from universities in Europe and the Americas – to begin investigative work on a number of high-impact projects. For the…

THE ORGANIZATION

Tracking Environmental Crime in the Amazon

27 AUG 2021

Next week, InSight Crime launches an investigation – conducted with Brazilian think-tank the Igarapé Institute – on the sophisticated organized crime structures and armed groups that…