HomeNewsBriefMS13, Barrio 18 Rivalry Increasing Violence in Guatemala: President
BRIEF

MS13, Barrio 18 Rivalry Increasing Violence in Guatemala: President

BARRIO 18 / 4 FEB 2015 BY ARRON DAUGHERTY EN

Guatemala President Otto Perez Molina blamed high levels of violence in January on rivalries between street gangs MS13 and Barrio 18, revealing the impact of these groups not just in El Salvador and Honduras, but Guatemala as well.

Violent death statistics rose to 488 in January 2015 from 484 in the same month last year, Prensa Libre reported. Perez said that 40 percent of January's violence was due to conflict between gangs. 

MS13 and Barrio 18 are Guatemala's most prominent street gangs. Both groups trace their origins back to Los Angeles but now operate mainly in the Northern Triangle of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. In Guatemala the gangs mainly focus on extortion but are also involved in kidnapping and bank robberies, according to the nation's anti-gang unit.

January's statistics come despite the president's claimed security achievements during his first three years in office and his promise to make 2015 Guatemala's "year of non-violence." Criminal violence claimed 5,924 lives in 2014, a separate Prensa Libre report claimed.

InSight Crime Analysis

As general elections approach this year, Perez is likely hoping to protect the political legacy of his hardline "mano dura" security strategies and the election prospects of his conservative Patriot Party. While Perez may be seeking to divert some blame for the increase in violence, the gangs' influence in Guatemala and other Central American countries, is undeniable.

Within Guatemala the groups are linked to some 30 percent of the nation's extortion cases. In Honduras MS13 and Barrio 18's violent struggle for the city of San Pedro Sula have contributed to its ranking as the world's murder capital four years in a row. Meanwhile the disintegration of El Salvador's 2012 gang truce was widely considered the primary reason for rising homicide rates there in 2014.

SEE ALSO: Profile of Mara Salvatrucha (MS13)

The real question is whether these two groups, which have transnational presence, have any kind of centralized, cross-border leadership. While instances of cross-border cooperation have been documented, gang leaders' abilities to coordinate and control actions regionally or even on a national level, are debatable. The gangs may be transnational criminal organizations -- as the US Department of Treasury labeled MS13 in 2012 -- but appear to operate more under a franchise model than as a coherent and structured organization.

A new gang truce recently announced in El Salvador may be an opportunity to see how well MS13 and Barrio 18 exercise control over their disparate cliques. It remains to be seen if this truce will be respected throughout El Salvador, let alone in Honduras and Guatemala. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article reported that Perez said violence increased 40 percent in January. He said that 40 percent of violence in January was due to conflict between gangs. 

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

ELITES AND CRIME / 1 DEC 2021

As day broke in Guatemala City on August 31, 2016, a judge named Carlos Ruano anxiously awaited a meeting with one of Guatemala’s most powerful…

COCAINE / 16 FEB 2021

In Copán – a major transit point for cocaine – drug trafficking groups collaborate with local authorities to smuggle narcotics over the department’s porous western border with Guatemala.

BARRIO 18 / 24 AUG 2021

A scrapped investigation by El Salvador’s former Attorney General has revealed a massive trove of evidence that the administration of…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…

THE ORGANIZATION

‘Ndrangheta Investigation, Exclusive Interview With Suriname President Make Waves

2 DEC 2022

Two weeks ago, InSight Crime published an investigation into how Italian mafia clan the ‘Ndrangheta built a cocaine trafficking network from South America to ‘Ndrangheta-controlled Italian ports. The investigation generated…