HomeNewsBriefNew El Salvador Gang Strategy Targets Public Officials: Report
BRIEF

New El Salvador Gang Strategy Targets Public Officials: Report

BARRIO 18 / 8 NOV 2016 BY MIMI YAGOUB EN

El Salvador's three main gangs have reportedly joined forces to carry out strategic assassinations against public officials, which if true would mark a troubling development in the gangs' conflict with the state.

The leaders of the three main gangs in El Salvador reportedly met in October and agreed to put their efforts toward targeting high-profile public officials in a "stepped-up war against the system," according to police intelligence obtained by La Prensa Gráfica. Although the report did not specify the identities of the leaders in question, the country's three main groups are considered to be the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and two factions of Barrio 18: Sureños and Revolucionarios.

SEE ALSO:  MS13 News and Profile

The leaders reportedly decided that during the last months of 2016 they would focus on committing attacks and assassinations that would have a "greater social impact," La Prensa Gráfica reported. This apparently includes police, military, prison officials, mayors, congressmen, prosecutors and judges.

The move is reportedly in response to the government's crackdown on gangs, which includes the implementation of so-called "extraordinary measures" which restrict incarcerated gang members' interaction with the outside world. 

Police investigations revealed that gang members may already be moving to increase targeted attacks in the departments of San Salvador, Cuscatlán and Cabañas, where they have been tracking police and military agents during their days off, La Prensa Gráfica reported.

Rural training areas have also been detected in these departments, where at least 30 gang members have gathered to learn military tactics such as how to use assault rifles and hand grenades, the report adds. The instructors are reportedly former military officials.

InSight Crime Analysis

These reported developments, if true, are further indication that the gangs are increasing their coordination in order to carry out attacks against state agents. News of the gangs' joint "war against the system" comes only weeks after El Diario de Hoy reported that MS13 leaders planned on setting up a 500-man elite unit. The last phase of that plan, which was never realized, reportedly involved deploying the elite unit to attack public and private institutions in a high-intensity armed conflict.

As with the recent report, the plan to fund an elite unit was apparently in response to the government's repressive policies targeting the gangs. Since President Salvador Sánchez Céren took office in 2014, the Salvadoran government has bolstered the armed fight against gangs and has also used judicial tools at its disposal, such as classifying the gangs as terrorist organizations.

There is no doubt that police officers are already a frequent target of El Salvador's gangs. Whether all three gangs would be capable of coordinating a campaign against the state is less certain. But it's not too hard to imagine, given the gangs' seeming ability to bring down the national murder rate on multiple occasions

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 / 11 JUN 2013

In October 2012, the US Treasury Department designated the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a transnational criminal organization (TCO). While this…

BARRIO 18 / 26 JAN 2017

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time.

BARRIO 18 / 15 JUL 2019

A government crackdown on phone use in prisons has led inmates in El Salvador to adopt desperate measures to communicate…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.