El Salvador News

El Salvador Supreme Court Labels Street Gangs as Terrorist Groups

El Salvador Supreme Court Labels Street Gangs as Terrorist Groups

El Salvador's top court has reclassified the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18 street gangs as terrorist organizations, in what appears to be an official declaration of war and a green light for the further militarization of domestic security. Read More

El Salvador Profile

El Salvador

El Salvador

El Salvador is a relatively small but growing player in the drug trafficking business, serving as a recipient and storage point along the Pacific Coast, and a bridge via the Pan-American Highway, the Fonseca Gulf, and small roads from Honduras that cut across the relatively unpopulated mountains. Local transport groups have their roots in the country’s civil war, when many ran weapons and contraband from Honduras and Nicaragua to the rebel groups. These networks now service larger criminal gangs, mostly from Mexico, moving drugs from as far south as Panama. Compounding the country’s problems are powerful street gangs, known as “maras,” which help make El Salvador one of the most dangerous places in the world, with a homicide rate of 69.2 per 100,000 in 2011 according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Significant drops in the homicide rate were registered in 2012 following a gang truce negotiated by the government, with national police reporting 2,576 murders compared to 4,371 in 2011. However, violence began to rise again after the gang truce broke down completely in 2014. 

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More El Salvador News

  • El Salvador Supreme Court Labels Street Gangs as Terrorist Groups

    El Salvador's gangs have been declared terrorist organizations

    El Salvador's top court has reclassified the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18 street gangs as terrorist organizations, in what appears to be an official declaration of war and a green light for the further militarization of domestic security.

  • 14 Dead in El Salvador Prison Massacre

    A recent prison massacre in El Salvador is indicative of the government's problematic response to the nation's ongoing security crisis. 

  • Need for Police Reform in El Salvador at All-Time High

    Damien Wolff says El Salvador must reform its police

    El Salvador is at a crossroads. Security forces and sophisticated street gangs are locked into what increasingly looks like a civil war, albeit without the obvious political component. In this context, political analyst Damien Wolff* considers the urgency of police reform in that country.

  • El Salvador Revisits Idea of Security Tax as Violence Peaks

    42 people were murdered on August 17

    Following the two most violent days of the year, authorities in El Salvador are revisiting the idea of enacting a tax to fund security initiatives, as they attempt to overcome years of little state investment in crime prevention.

  • The Siren Call of Militarization in Latin America

    Soldiers on patrol

    There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the militarization of domestic security is bad for human rights and has little impact on crime and violence in the long term. So what keeps attracting Latin American governments to adopt these "iron fist" policies?

  • In El Salvador, Hysteria Trumps Security Policy

    Attorney General Luis Martinez

    El Salvador's Attorney General recently said the country is looking to extradite alleged gang members to the United States on terrorism charges, a highly unlikely scenario that is illustrative of the government's increasingly tough rhetoric on combating soaring gang violence. 

  • Gangs, Homicides, and Police Brutality in El Salvador

    A suspect under arreste in El Salvador

    The following is an account of how one journalist accidentally witnessed police beating suspected gang members in El Salvador. The episode raises troubling questions about police brutality in a country suffering from soaring homicide rates. 

  • The Police Massacre in San Blas, El Salvador

    El Salvador's National Police (PNC, by its Spanish initials) claims its agents were attacked at a farm in San Jose Villanueva during the early morning of March 26, and that while "exchanging fire," the agents killed "eight members of a criminal structure." Their story is false. The facts, reconstructed by newspaper El Faro, indicate that those killed were summarily executed and arranged to appear as if they died in a shootout.

  • El Salvador Govt Warns of Unified Super Gang: Report

    Leaders from MS 13 and Barrio 18 gangs

    El Salvador's government has reportedly warned that the MS13 and Barrio 18 are planning to unite and create a super gang, but these fears are likely unfounded. 

  • El Salvador Now Using Anti-Terrorism Law to Tackle Gangs

    Attorney General Luis Martinez

    El Salvador has invoked its anti-terrorism laws to prosecute alleged gang members -- raising the debate over definitions of crime and terrorism, where the two intersect, and the government's motives in framing the gangs as terrorist organizations.