HomeNewsBriefMS13 Selling Weapons, Seeking New Profits
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MS13 Selling Weapons, Seeking New Profits

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 31 MAR 2017 BY LEONARDO GOI EN

The street gang MS13 is reportedly selling weapons in El Salvador's capital, a sign that the gang might be seeking new revenue streams.

A Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) cell is selling weapons in the center of San Salvador, reported La Prensa Gráfica. The clique, known as Centrales Locos Salvatruchos, has allegedly settled in the area and expanded its business despite efforts by the National Civil Police (Policía Nacional Civil – PNC) and the Attorney General's Office (Fiscalía General de la República – FGR) to fight against the gang.

The MS13 reportedly began to sell weapons in the area in 2012, the news report said. Before then, the business was by and large run by independent purveyors commonly referred to as "coyotes." The MS13 displaced them, authorities told the newspaper, and began selling military weapons, including M-16 and AK-47 rifles, pistols and ammunition.

SEE ALSO: MS13 News and Profiles

Authorities believe some of the weapons sold by the gang are stolen within El Salvador, while others come from neighboring countries.

"We have information that says [the weapons sold by the MS13] are coming from countries across Central America, such as Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras… and can confirm that weapons have entered El Salvador from those countries," David Munguía Payés, El Salvador's Defense Minister, told La Prensa Gráfica.

InSight Crime Analysis

While the MS13's ties with arms trafficking have long been known, gangs are generally thought of more as buyers than sellers. The fact that the criminal group is reportedly supplying firearms in El Salvador's black market is a sign that the gang might be seeking to expand its revenue streams.

It is a troubling turn. For years, weapons have been disappearing from military stockpiles, and street gangs are known to carry military-grade weapons. By sourcing weapons from neighboring countries, the MS13 seems to have adopted an arguably more sophisticated way of obtaining the supply they need for themselves and others.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

The recent capture of a Salvadoran drug trafficker in January 2017 helped to shed more light on the ways in which the gangs source their weapons. Carlos Arnoldo Cardoza Sandoval, alias "Melao," reportedly provided weapons to the MS13 and its rivals in the Barrio 18.

Authorities believe that between 2002 and 2016, Melao traveled to Honduras an estimated 125 times, where he obtained the weapons he then provided to the gangs, part of which the criminal groups sold on the black market. Melao first worked for the Barrio 18, but when rumors that the gang was plotting his assassination began to spread, he sided with the MS13 until his capture on January 15, 2017. 

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