MS13 News

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

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

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.

MS13 Profile

MS13

MS13

The Mara Salvatrucha, or MS13, is perhaps the most notorious street gang in the Western Hemisphere. While it has its origins in the poor, refugee-laden neighborhoods of 1980s Los Angeles, the gang's reach now extends from Central American nations like El Salvador and through Mexico, the United States, and Canada. They rob, extort and bully their way into neighborhoods and have gradually turned to transnational crimes such as human smuggling and drug trafficking. Their activities have helped make the Northern Triangle -- Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras -- the most violent place in the world that is not at war. In October 2012, the US Department of the Treasury labeled the group a "transnational criminal organization," the first such designation for a US street gang. 

More MS-13 News

  • 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.

  • US Anti-Gang Operation Shows Complexity of Criminal Landscape

    A recent US anti-gang operation led to more than 1,300 arrests

    A six-week anti-gang operation headed by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) led to more than 1,300 arrests nationwide. But a breakdown of suspects' alleged affiliations suggests that recent rhetoric may not match reality when it comes to the threat of Latin America-linked gangs in the United States, particularly the MS13.

  • 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.

  • Tensions Rise over Dissident MS13 Faction in El Salvador

    MS13 graffiti

    A breakaway faction of El Salvador's MS13 gang has reportedly been the source of increasing conflict, underlining how gang rivalries and violence can contribute to cycles of retaliation.

  • Weekly InSight: Debunking the Trump Administration's Alternative Facts about MS13

    US President Donald Trump

    In our April 20 Facebook Live session, Co-director Steven Dudley spoke with Senior Investigator Héctor Silva Ávalos about the recent rhetorical offensive launched against the MS13 by the administration of US President Donald Trump.

  • 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?

  • 7 Things the Trump Administration Gets Wrong about MS13

    US President Donald Trump

    US President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions launched a rhetorical campaign this week against the MS13, one of the most violent gangs in Central America. But the verbal offensive by the president and the attorney general, as well as their statements on the origins and evolution of the gang, are for the most part false or misleading.

Investigations

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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...

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.

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...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

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. 

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...

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...

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...

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...