HomeNewsBriefEl Salvador Gangs Outline Political Motives of Violence
BRIEF

El Salvador Gangs Outline Political Motives of Violence

BARRIO 18 / 2 MAR 2015 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

El Salvador's largest street gangs have indicated they wield sufficient power to influence the country's presidential elections, in a statement highlighting the gangs' use of violence as a political tool. 

In a press release sent out to Salvadoran media, leaders of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18 gangs -- known as “maras” -- stated that ruling party the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) almost lost the 2014 presidential election because the party did not have the support of the gangs. La Pagina published the statement on February 27, just two days before El Salvador's March 1 municipal and congressional elections.

The apparent joint statement said the maras "have been used" by the FMLN, who have "turned their backs" on the country's 2012 gang truce brokered by government mediators and a bishop from the Catholic Church. The truce broke down during the first half of 2014 amid rising homicides, and President Salvador Sanchez Ceren has rejected the possibility of starting new dialogue with the gangs since taking office in June 2014.

The mara leaders added they "know the [current] government will no longer be in power in five years," after the next presidential election. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The release of the Barrio 18 and MS13 statement just days before El Salvador's congressional elections is the latest example of the gangs' efforts to exert influence over the country's political landscape. The maras agreed to a new truce to reduce violence in January. This time without the support of the Church or the government, the move appeared to be an attempt to show the Salvadoran population that they, not the Sanchez Ceren administration, hold the keys to the country's security situation.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

The gangs have vested interests in El Salvador's political landscape. Former president Mauricio Funes agreed to transfer 30 MS13 and Barrio 18 gang leaders to lower-security prisons as part of the 2012 truce, however Sanchez Ceren has recently sent many of the leaders back to a maximum-security facility. The Sanchez Ceren administration has also supported the use of stronger police tactics against criminals, and one top security official recently stated the country is "at war" with the gangs.

But it is unclear how much power the gangs currently have over violence in El Salvador. The 2012 gang truce is widely credited with dropping the country's homicide rate from 70 per 100,000 in 2011 to almost half that number in 2012 and 2013. However, the most recent truce has yet to produce comparative results: El Salvador registered an average of 11 murders per day in February, which is near pre-2012 truce homicide levels.

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 / 29 SEP 2015

Despite security measures, thieves continue to assault users of El Salvador’s complex bus and public transportation system, demonstrating the tremendous…

EL SALVADOR / 17 OCT 2018

An investigation in El Salvador has uncovered links between former members of the Attorney General’s office and the government of…

EL SALVADOR / 2 DEC 2019

El Salvador officials have announced the deployment of more than 3,000 troops to protect coffee farms from theft -- a…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

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.