HomeNewsBriefEl Salvador's MS13 Gang Sought Big Guns in Mexico, Guatemala
BRIEF

El Salvador's MS13 Gang Sought Big Guns in Mexico, Guatemala

EL SALVADOR / 12 AUG 2016 BY MIKE LASUSA EN

Prosecutors in El Salvador have filed court documents alleging that MS13 leaders sought to arm an "elite unit" of the gang with high-powered weapons purchased in Mexico and Guatemala, an indication that the group's transnational connections contribute to its domestic clout.

According to a 1,355 page document filed by El Salvador's Attorney General's Office, which was reviewed by La Prensa Gráfica and El Universal, alleged MS13 leader Marvin Adaly Ramos Quintanilla, alias "Piwa," hatched a plan to train an "elite unit" of 500 gang members and arm them with powerful firearms from Mexico and Guatemala in order to carry out attacks against business owners, security forces, judicial workers and politicians.

"The gang project consists of collecting money monthly from extortion proceeds in order to purchase weapons…to equip 500 members of the MS, two from each of the 249 cliques at the national level and to form elite shock teams for attacks against the security system," the document reportedly reads.

The document, which was filed as part of a massive new case against dozens of suspected gang members, reportedly alleges that the purpose of these "shock teams" was to carry out "selective and simultaneous" attacks against high-profile targets, "all with the goal of destabilizing the state."

It is unclear from the press reports exactly how far the gang advanced with this plan. However, La Prensa Gráfica reported that between April of this year and his arrest in late July, Piwa oversaw the purchase of 30 bulletproof vests and several shipments of high-powered firearms and grenades.

The news outlet also reported that the prosecutors accuse suspected MS13 members of seeking to acquire weapons in Mexico and Guatemala "for prices that varied between $2,000 and $3,000 and that had the capability of taking down helicopters." It is not clear whether those purchase attempts were successful.

InSight Crime Analysis

There is significant debate among experts about the extent of coordination between MS13 in El Salvador and cliques that operate in countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and the United States. However, the recent allegations indicate the MS13 is actively seeking out partnerships with criminals in nearby countries, which in turn is facilitating the gang's activity inside El Salvador.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles  

El Salvador has no domestic gun manufacturing industry, which means that all of the firearms in the country -- both legal and illegal -- must at some point be imported. It would therefore not be surprising if gang members inside El Salvador get help from counterparts abroad when seeking weapons that they are not able to obtain domestically. 

At the same time, gangs also have access to plenty of weapons in El Salvador that leak from police and military stockpiles. One witness cited by the prosecutors testified that officials from the armed forces sold three high-powered M-60 machine guns to gang members. This would hardly come as a shock; Salvadoran security forces have repeatedly been implicated in arms trafficking activities in recent years.

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

CONTRABAND / 1 NOV 2018

A new report shows how sales of illegal alcohol in Latin America make for a booming contraband industry that is…

MEXICO / 25 AUG 2017

A new video provides an inside look at the operations of small-scale drug trafficking groups on the campus of…

MEXICO / 13 OCT 2011

Mexico’s army arrested a high-ranking member of the Zetas gang, though not 'Z-40' as was initially reported, triggering…

About InSight Crime

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…

THE ORGANIZATION

Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…