After a shootout with gang members in downtown San Pedro Sula, Honduran police raided a safe house of the Barrio 18 street gang, discovering an arsenal of weapons, along with police uniforms and IDs.
The shootout and car chase, which took place on January 2, led Honduran police to a luxury residence in Honduras' second largest city, El Heraldo reported. When police entered the house, they found they had stumbled on what they believed to be a headquarters of Barrio 18. The five men in the residence, following an intervention by a bishop called by the gang members, surrendered without a fight.
The police seized weapons including automatic rifles, some with grenade launchers attached. Also seized was an array of police equipment, including police badges, bullet-proof vests, hats, shirts, and fluorescent jackets with markings of the traffic police.
At least one of the detainees, Oved Isai Aleman Izcoa, alias "El Tacoma," is believed to be a senior Barrio 18 leader.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Mara gangs in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras appear to be increasing in sophistication and strength. In El Salvador, from where the Mara gangs, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18, spread into Central America, the gangs have called a truce. The truce has not only led to a significant drop in homicides, but has allowed the two gangs to better organize themselves, and become political protagonists.
In Guatemala, the tendency is the same, with both gangs developing centralized leadership and increasing control over the disparate street gangs, or "cliques," spread across the country. This increasing sophistication has prompted the US Treasury to place sanctions on Mara Salvatrucha, placing it in the same league as Mexico's Zetas and Japan's Yakuza.
So far however, there has been little indication of Honduras' Mara gangs making the leap into serious transnational organized crime, although they have been forced to react to sustained government offensives.
What is clear, however, is that the Mara gangs affiliated to both Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 have open channels between the different countries. It is unlikely that changes in organization in both El Salvador and Guatemala are not having some effect in Honduras.