Barrio 18 News

Barrio 18 Extortion Scheme Casts Doubt on El Salvador Govt Security Narrative

Barrio 18 Extortion Scheme Casts Doubt on El Salvador Govt Security Narrative

The Barrio 18 gang in El Salvador allegedly engaged in large-scale extortion of a community water management project, underscoring flaws in the government's claims that security is improving across the country. 

Barrio 18 Profile

Barrio 18

Barrio 18

The 18th Street Gang, also known as "Barrio 18," is one of the largest youth gangs in the Western Hemisphere. Like its better known rival, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13), the Barrio 18 has cells operating from Central America to Canada, including the United States. With thousands of members across hundreds of kilometers, and interests in a number of different illicit activities, Barrio 18 is one of the more significant emerging criminal threats in the region. Still, it is questionable how far its different units are coordinated across borders, or even within the same city.

More Barrio 18 News

  • Barrio 18 Extortion Scheme Casts Doubt on El Salvador Govt Security Narrative

    Barrio 18 gang members

    The Barrio 18 gang in El Salvador allegedly engaged in large-scale extortion of a community water management project, underscoring flaws in the government's claims that security is improving across the country. 

  • Barrio 18 Members Sentenced to 390 Years for El Salvador Massacre

    Seven Barrio 18 members were each condemned to 390 years

    Seven gang members were each condemned to 390 years in prison for the murder of eleven people in El Salvador -- a symbolic judgement involving a massacre that was instrumental in the introduction of tough anti-gang measures by the government.

  • El Salvador Defense Minister Played Key Role in Gang Truce: AG

    El Salvador's Defense Minister David Munguía Payés

    A minister in El Salvador has been implicated in a controversial and now defunct gang truce, in a move that may be meant to discredit the ceasefire and officials involved in it.

  • Top Guatemala Prison Official Filmed Negotiating with Gangs: Report

    A security officer asking Barrio 18 leaders to open the prison gates

    A recently published video appears to show the head of Guatemala's penitentiary system negotiating with gang leaders in a maximum-security prison, a stark reminder of how much authority the state has ceded to criminals behind bars.

  • Proposed Anti-Gang Law in Guatemala Another Flawed 'Iron Fist' Policy?

    Members of the MS13 street gang in a prison in El Salvador.

    Legislators in Guatemala have proposed a new bill aimed at attacking the country's gangs by increasing fines and prison sentences for gang members. But how the draft law will be implemented and how effective it will be remains unclear.

  • Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

    When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

  • Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

    In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla, Zacapa, and Chiquimula. The northern department of Petén, which encompasses nearly a third of the country's land mass, also routinely has some of the highest homicide rates.[1]

  • Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

    When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some of these forms go into paper files. Others go into computer files. Some of them are summarized and sent to headquarters. Others remain at precinct or even sub-precinct level. As will become evident, much of it is quickly buried amidst a pile of papers that will literally fade with time, or within a computer file, which will most likely be erased or lost by the next person who has that job.

  • Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

    Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork related to one. There is nothing scientific about olfato, yet it seems as if that is the guiding measure as it relates to determining this crucial question: What is behind the steady stream of homicides in Central America, or in this case, Guatemala?

  • Report Recommends Less Repressive Approach to Gang Problem in CentAm

    Gang violence continues to plague Central America

    A new report by a leading watchdog and policy group says that Central America's Northern Triangle governments should find a middle ground that balances the need for engaging with the region's violent street gangs, while still maintaining the rule of law and the governments' legitimacy.

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The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...