HomeNewsBrief'Rising Extortion' Signals Trouble For El Salvador's Gang Truce
BRIEF

'Rising Extortion' Signals Trouble For El Salvador's Gang Truce

BARRIO 18 / 18 MAR 2013 BY MIRIAM WELLS EN

Salvadoran police warn that extortion by gangs has risen since a nationwide truce between the MS-13 and Barrio 18 was brokered a year ago, raising concerns about the long term viability of the deal.

Police sources consulted by newspaper El Diario de Hoy said while the number of reported extortions had dropped, the real figure seemed to have shot up, and that gang members were using new methods.

Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 have agreed to stop extortion in designated "peace zones" in the next phase of the truce, but Justice and Security Minister David Munguia Payes admitted to El Diario de Hoy that extortion would not stop while unemployment remained high.

Only 10 percent of extortion victims filed reports, said police investigators, while many stayed silent for fear of reprisals. Extortion payments were factored into company budgets, they said, citing the example of a business in Soyapango paying $27,000 a month to gangs.

Children aged between 10 and 13 are often used as messengers, according to security advisers employed by businesses, who told the newspaper that they arrived with threatening notes or cellphones allowing gang members to talk directly with company managers. Police said the gangs made an average of 75 calls a day to potential victims, mostly from jail.

Munguia told El Diario de Hoy that the fact that an agreement had not been reached with the gangs on extortion was one of the "imperfections" of the truce. "The gangs have already said that they are not going to stop extorting, because that is how they make a living, at least until they have an alternative way of making money," said the minister.

InSight Crime Analysis

While El Salvador's gang truce has been widely lauded as a success, with homicides dropping more than 40 percent since it was agreed in 2012, there are questions over the viability of proposed new peace zones, and extortion is a major sticking point. As Munguia acknowledged, extortion is the main source of income for the gangs and as such will be difficult to eradicate.

Gang leaders have agreed to stop all criminal activities in designated peace zones, four of which have been inaugurated so far, with another 10 planned, but the lack of clarity about how the zones will work in practice is a cause for concern.

Both the government and gang leaders have made clear that extortion will not stop until there are more job opportunities for the gang members, but so far these have failed to materialize.  The government has announced plans to give tens of thousands of gang members and "at risk" youth job training and opportunities with participating companies, but gang members have complained that so far authorities have not made good on their promises.

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

COCAINE / 20 JUN 2023

The acquittal of "El Barney" raises questions about El Salvador's approach to targeting gang leaders amid the state of exception.

CRIMINAL MIGRATION / 19 JUL 2022

Amid El Salvador's brutal anti-gang crackdown, one top MS13 leader was escorted out of the country by a government official.

EL SALVADOR / 15 JUN 2022

El Salvador's sweeping crackdown, which has seen over 30,000 people arrested, may in fact drive many desperate young people straight…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Contributes Expertise Across the Board 

22 SEP 2023

This week InSight Crime investigators Sara García and María Fernanda Ramírez led a discussion of the challenges posed by Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s “Total Peace” plan within urban contexts. The…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Cited in New Colombia Drug Policy Plan

15 SEP 2023

InSight Crime’s work on emerging coca cultivation in Honduras, Guatemala, and Venezuela was cited in the Colombian government’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Discusses Honduran Women's Prison Investigation

8 SEP 2023

Investigators Victoria Dittmar and María Fernanda Ramírez discussed InSight Crime’s recent investigation of a massacre in Honduras’ only women’s prison in a Twitter Spaces event on…

THE ORGANIZATION

Human Trafficking Investigation Published in Leading Mexican Newspaper

1 SEP 2023

Leading Mexican media outlet El Universal featured our most recent investigation, “The Geography of Human Trafficking on the US-Mexico Border,” on the front page of its August 30…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime's Coverage of Ecuador Leads International Debate

25 AUG 2023

This week, Jeremy McDermott, co-director of InSight Crime, was interviewed by La Sexta, a Spanish television channel, about the situation of extreme violence and insecurity in Ecuador…