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

EL SALVADOR / 15 FEB 2021

Hopes are high in the Northern Triangle, that the arrival of Joseph Biden and his administration to the White House…

BARRIO 18 / 29 JAN 2021

It was one of Alejandro Giammattei’s most emphatic promises. One year later, the Interior Ministry supported his strategy to reduce…

EL SALVADOR / 14 JUL 2014

US authorities have reportedly discovered gang members among the thousands of unaccompanied child migrants in holding centers, providing another facet…

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…