Barrio 18 News

Barrio 18 Members Sentenced to 390 Years for El Salvador Massacre

Barrio 18 Members Sentenced to 390 Years for El Salvador Massacre

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.

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

  • El Salvador Proposes Gang Rehabilitation Law

    Security and Justice Minister Benito Lara

    Officials in El Salvador have formally proposed a gang rehabilitation law, but the country's current security conditions -- along with the mixed results of similar initiatives elsewhere in the region -- suggest this legislation is unlikely to provide a viable solution to rising gang violence. 

  • Why are There No Gangs in Berlin, El Salvador?

    Road sign pointing to Berlin, El Salvador

    Berlin is not one of those municipalities often presented as a territory immune to El Salvador's gang phenomenon. Berlin has more than 17,000 residents and is nestled in one of the most violent zones in the country, but over the past decade its homicide rate has been closer to that of Costa Rica than El Salvador. There are no gangs in Berlin, and that alone deserves an explanation. 

  • El Salvador Official Slams 'Iron Fist' Security Policies

    El Salvador Security Minister Benito Lara's recent criticism of "iron fist" security policies is an abrupt change in rhetoric for an administration that has implemented a militarized approach to combating the country's deadly street gangs. 

  • For El Salvador Funeral Homes, Business is Booming

    A "muertero" in El Salvador

    Many funeral homes in El Salvador are experiencing a veritable bonanza these days. One funeral home in the municipality of San Pedro Perulapan runs its business according to the following mantra: “Coffin made, coffin sold.” There are other funeral homes, in Soyapango and San Salvador, that have made death a verb: “muertean,” in which employees search for dead bodies, even if the victims died in gang-controlled territory. Now more than ever, death is a lucrative business in what could be the world's most violent nation.  

  • El Salvador Security Crisis Sees Rise in Children Tried as Gang Members

    Youth gang members in El Salvador

    The number of minors prosecuted for gang-related crimes in El Salvador has grown by over 50 percent over the past year, giving impetus to renewed debate over whether to try children as adults for serious crimes. 

  • The Mystery Behind El Salvador's IEDs

    Police bomb squads defuse C4 explosives

    A string of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have El Salvador's authorities searching for culprits and motives behind the attacks. 

  • How El Salvador's Barrio 18 Spends Extortion Money

    Gang members wearing Nike shoes

    An in-depth look at how El Salvador's Barrio 18 runs extortion operations, as well as how members of the street gang are spending the illicit profits. 

  • From Extortion to Investment: The Making of Barrio 18, Inc.

    Barrio 18 leader "Viejo Lin"

    The structure and operations of El Salvador's Barrio 18 street gang increasingly resemble that of a corporation. Government investigations reveal the gang is keeping careful accounting records of money earned from extortion and making strategic investments in local businesses.

  • El Salvador: More Weapons, More Recruits, More Chaos

    Gangs handed weapons in during truce

    The demand for illicit weapons in El Salvador has surged to such an extent that it has impacted the black market in neighboring Guatemala. Raul Mijango, perhaps the last supporter of a dialogue between the government and gangs as a tool for stopping the rising violence in El Salvador, has stepped aside. Meanwhile, the government is apparently convinced that its bet on Super Mano Dura (“Super Iron Fist”) is the correct path, which it considers to be a lesser evil compared to the country's highest homicide rate since the turn of the 21st century. These are some of the ingredients for the explosive cauldron that is El Salvador.

  • Arrests Show Arrival of Barrio 18 Gang in Italy

    The recent capture of alleged Barrio 18 gang members in Italy confirms the spread of the Central American mara gangs in Europe, but questions remains as to whether this means they are now truly transnational criminal organizations. 

Investigations

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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...

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.

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right...

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...

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 Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

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...

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...

'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...

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...