HomeNewsBriefHead of Copycat MS13 Offshoot Captured in Peru
BRIEF

Head of Copycat MS13 Offshoot Captured in Peru

CRIMINAL MIGRATION / 7 AUG 2017 BY MIMI YAGOUB EN

The capture of the head of Peru's own "Mara Salvatrucha" is likely an example of Central America's MS13 inspiring similar -- but probably unconnected -- criminal operations far from home.

Peruvian authorities have arrested a man described as the head of the "Mara Salvatrucha Peru" or "MSX3," an acronym apparently also used to denote the MS13, La República reported

Police arrested Balbín Antonio Castillo Nole during a routine search in a Lima district on August 2, El Comercio reported. The subject is reportedly wanted for drug trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, attempted homicide, and theft.

SEE ALSO:  Coverage of Criminal Migration

Castillo had been on the run since 2012, when he was arrested in his home town, the port city of Callao, under similar accusations. It is not known how, if or why he was released, according to local media. 

Past press reports suggest that the MSX3's activities focused on collecting extortion, dealing drugs in their neighborhoods and running contract hitman networks. Members also brandish tattoos similar to those used by Central American gangs.

InSight Crime Analysis

While such news does inspire headlines, the presence of MS13 branches as far south as Peru is far from a given. As InSight Crime has noted in the past, the ability of the MS13 -- whose strongest base is in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala -- to expand transnationally is, for now, weak. Even proof of coordination between the gangs based in these neighboring countries has been limited.

While there are definite parallels between Peru's own Mara offshoot and the MS13, it is unlikely that they work together. Indeed, Peruvian authorities have described local Mara factions as "inspired" by, or "imitators" of, Central America's gangs.

SEE ALSO:  MS13 News and Profile

Claims of Mara spinoffs have been made even further south, in Argentina. Last year, authorities arrested Richard Castillo Salazar -- originally from the same Peruvian town as Castillo -- in Buenos Aires. Salazar claimed to be the "the head of the Mara Salvatrucha."

In other cases, the arrests of Central American MS13 members abroad has sparked concerns of expansion, although there has been little evidence that their foreign presence was more than incidental.

If anything, the emergence of criminal groups using the Mara brand name across the continent -- even as far as Europe -- speaks to the looser nature of today's organized criminal groups and the increasing fragmentation of the traditional crime cartels.

Some of Latin America's most powerful syndicates, such as Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel and Colombia's Urabeños, have evolved into franchise-style organizations. These franchises give their name to a plethora of smaller groups who use the brand to incite fear and operate, while being only loosely affiliated to the organization's leadership, if at all.

A trend of bottom-up rather than top-down growth has also emerged, with street gangs gradually becoming more sophisticated and powerful as old school criminal structures weaken.

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

PERU / 3 SEP 2013

An investigation in Peru has exposed the pardoning of an entire drug trafficking ring, expanding the probe into allegations that…

PERU / 23 AUG 2016

Peru's Interior minister blasted the country's public security efforts and said 90 percent of Peruvians do not feel safe, a…

BARRIO 18 / 12 JUL 2013

El Salvador and Honduras are pioneering new efforts to stop gang-related violence via truces, but there are some critical differences…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…