HomeNewsBriefMS13 Expanding After Truce Collapse in El Salvador?
BRIEF

MS13 Expanding After Truce Collapse in El Salvador?

EL SALVADOR GANG TRUCE / 2 JUN 2014 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

In the aftermath of the collapse of El Salvador's gang truce, authorities have said the MS13 gang is deepening its hold on illegal migration routes in Mexico, a possible sign of the increasing transnational capabilities indicated by both Salvadoran and US officials.

Cells of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) are attempting to establish control over routes used by migrants in various towns in Chiapas state, on the border with Guatemala. They are targeting undocumented migrants for extortion and kidnapping, among other crimes, reported Proceso.

According to the special prosecutor for Chiapas' migrant unit, Alejandro Vila, there have already been a number of confrontations between these cells and their rivals of Barrio 18, also present in the zone.

Vila said the renewed presence of the MS13 was a result of the reactivation of freight train "The Beast," commonly used by northward bound Central American migrants. The train's operations had been suspended due to hurricane damage.

The report comes shortly after El Salvador's outgoing president declared the truce between the MS13 and Barrio 18 had "failed." Just before the announcement, the tiny Central American nation saw a return to record murder rates, with 30 homicides registered in a single day.

InSight Crime Analysis

El Salvador's gang truce, initially credited with nearly halving the country's homicide rate, was abandoned by the government that helped negotiate it. Homicides have been steadily rising since mid-2013, and truce critics -- particularly Security Minister Ricardo Perdomo -- have claimed the gangs simply used the initiative to grow stronger and increase their involvement in transnational drug trafficking

SEE ALSO: El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives and Negatives

The United States had already given a similar prognosis for the MS13 in late 2012, when it designated the group a transnational criminal organization, citing activities including drug trafficking, human smuggling and sex trafficking.

The MS13's structure has been previously described as a loose, decentralized network with highly localized operations. However, there have been signs of a growingly sophisticated and integrated command structure, including interactions between US-based leaders and Salvadoran members.

If the MS13 is increasing its presence in Mexico's southern border region, this could be another indication of increasing transnational reach. While the gang has long been involved in kidnapping and extorting migrants, the current report suggests significant control over a large area, which would demand some coordination. However there it is perhaps easy to overestimate the cohesion of MS13, which is not a centrally directed and coordinated organization, but rather a franchise of affiliated cliques, which can sometimes work together.

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

BARRIO 18 / 2 SEP 2015

El Salvador experienced the most violent month since the country's civil war in August, which alongside reports of forced displacement…

HUMAN SMUGGLING / 25 MAY 2011

Three employees of an Arizona sheriff have been arrested on charges of working with Mexican drug traffickers, and…

BARRIO 18 / 5 OCT 2011

El Salvador is suffering a new wave of disappearances, mostly of young people and teenagers, who go missing without…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…

THE ORGANIZATION

Backing Investigative Journalism Around the Globe

5 NOV 2021

InSight Crime was a proud supporter of this year's Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which took place November 1 through November 5 and convened nearly 2,000 journalists…