Barrio 18 News

El Salvador Ex-Mayor Ordered Gang to Kill Local Official, Police Say

El Salvador Ex-Mayor Ordered Gang to Kill Local Official, Police Say

Authorities in El Salvador say a former mayor who was arrested last year had ordered gang members to kill a municipal official, revealing the dangers of too much interaction between gangs and city hall.

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

  • 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 Oliva, who, for a time, imposed his rule inside the jails before being swallowed by the same system he helped create.

  • Barrio 18 Wants to Join Possible Talks with El Salvador Govt: Report

    Graffiti of the Sureños gang

    A second major gang in El Salvador said it hopes to join possible negotiations between the government and the MS13, but its entry into the process may only complicate efforts.

  • El Salvador Church Offers to Mediate Resolution with Gangs

    Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chávez

    In a first, top representatives of El Salvador's powerful and influential Catholic Church have said the Church would be willing to serve as a mediator in an eventual dialogue between the government and the country's gangs.

  • GameChangers 2016: El Salvador's New (Ideology Free) Civil War

    El Salvador's gangs and security forces are locked in low-intensity warfare

    The already heated fight between El Salvador's gangs and security forces began to resemble a low-intensity conflict in 2016, as the MS13 and Barrio 18 increasingly aligned against a government bent on destroying them in a battle that seemed to have everything you would expect in war except an ideology. 

  • GameChangers 2016: Elites, Organized Crime and Political Firestorms

    President Dilma Rousseff was removed from obvious amid a widening corruption scandal

    Welcome to InSight Crime's GameChangers 2016, where we highlight the most important trends in organized crime in the Americas. This year we put a spotlight on crime and corruption among the region's political elites, while reporting on government struggles to corral criminality fueled by street gangs, drug cartels and Marxist rebels alike.

  • El Salvador Police Prepare to Take Their Own Revenge Against Gangs

    Police officers outside a funeral for a slain colleague

    The same day they buried the seventh police officer killed by gang members in November, the government announced a new response plan, "Nemesis," which means revenge. This plan stems from measures that have already been implemented and promises very little. However, before the government's new commitment, police have said they are taking their own measures; some of them have decided to flee, others have chosen to create cells across the country to kill gang members and their families. The authorities have denied this on camera and declare that it is "speculation."

  • Report Says El Salvador Gangs Have Created a Parallel State

    An MS13 graffiti being painted over by an official in El Salvador

    A new study argues that powerful street gangs have gone a long way toward creating a parallel state in El Salvador, providing a helpful framework to illustrate the extent to which the gangs impact society and undermine state governance.

  • The El Salvador Businessman Who Does Not Pay the Gangs

    Catalino Mirando, owner of Acostes bus company, poses with his 9 mm pistol in his office.

    El Salvador's main passenger transport entrepreneur dares to resist paying extortion to the country's gangs. Catalino Miranda already knows that the police and prosecution services will not solve the problem, and he has chosen to arm his company and hire former military personnel for security. Most transport entrepreneurs, buses and minibuses pay "aguinaldo" (extortion fees) to gangs, but Catalino refuses to do so even though it has cost, according to him, a couple of dozen of his employees.

  • The Bus Route That Institutionalized Extortion in El Salvador

    Extortion payments are deducted from some bus drivers' salaries

    In El Salvador, extortion demanded by gangs has become so normalized that there is a bus company that deducts the cost of extortion directly from drivers' payroll in order to make an annual payment to the Barrio 18. The drivers understand it: refusing to pay is equivalent to death and reporting the extortion, in a lawless state that has lost all territorial control, would do very little.

  • El Salvador's FMLN: Talking Peace While Waging War

    El Salvador President Salvador Sánchez Cerén

    A series of videos showing officials from President Salvador Sánchez Cerén's administration holding secret negotiations with the country's principal street gangs prior to taking power have called into question the ruling FMLN's motives for talking to the gangs in the first place. Were they seeking an end to the gang wars or was it a way to prepare what has become a massive government offensive against them?

Investigations

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'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...

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...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

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...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

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...

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...

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla -- a decorated war hero and a longtime US ally -- finds himself treading water amidst a flurry of accusations about corruption and his connections to drug traffickers. López Bonilla is not the most well-known suspect in the cases against...