El Salvador Prisons

and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

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US Again Warns Central America over Attacks on Prosecutors, CICIG

US Again Warns Central America over Attacks on Prosecutors, CICIG

A US senator has warned Guatemala that aid funding could be put in jeopardy if the Central American country's president, Jimmy Morales, insists on calling for the removal of Iván Velásquez, the head of the anti-corruption body CICIG.

El Salvador Profile

El Salvador

El Salvador

El Salvador is a relatively small but growing player in the drug trafficking business. It serves as a drug recipient and storage point along the Pacific Coast, and a bridge via the Pan-American Highway, the Fonseca Gulf, and roads from Honduras that cut through relatively unpopulated areas.

More El Salvador News

  • CentAm Migrants Suffer Brunt of Mexico Crackdown: Report

    Mexican authorities have cracked down on migration

    Mexico's crackdown against Central American migrants has increased human rights violations and crimes against the migrants, according to a new report, suggesting it is the vulnerable rather than the human smugglers that are suffering as a result of the new security measures.

  • El Salvador Transfers Judges to Combat Corruption in Judiciary

    El Salvador's Supreme Court building

    El Salvador's Supreme Court has transferred 21 judges, including four that made rulings favorable to a prominent businessman accused of corrupting the justice system, a clear sign that the high court supports the current crackdown on impunity by the Attorney General's Office.

  • Report Describes Shifting Patterns of Violence in El Salvador

    Crime scene in Jiquilisco, the site of a case study in the INCIDE report

    A new report describes recent shifts in the characteristics of violence in El Salvador, and it offers recommendations for how to deal with these developments, focusing particularly on the need to tailor violence reduction and prevention strategies to specific local conditions.

  • Refugees from Central America Violence May Head Down Under

    Central American migrants head north.

    With the United States increasingly clamping down on its southern border and high numbers of Central American refugees continuing to flee the violence associated with gangs and organized crime, more and more migrants are opting to leave the continent altogether.

  • El Salvador Chips Away at Very High Homicide Rate

    Crime Scene in El Salvador

    The homicide rate in El Salvador showed improvement in the first half of September, continuing a steady decline in violent deaths seen over the past six months, though the country still has a long way to go to achieve murder rates in line with international norms.

  • El Salvador Disappearances Down From Post-Gang Truce Peak

    Photographs of people reported missing in El Salvador

    Newly reported statistics from El Salvador's National Civil Police indicate that disappearances have declined from a peak reached in 2014 after the dissolution of a controversial gang truce, raising questions about the relationship between the truce and the rate of disappearances.

  • El Salvador Announces New Anti-Impunity Unit

    Attorney General Douglas Meléndez (left) and Justice Minister Mauricio Ramirez Landaverde in the teleconference.

    El Salvador’s attorney general announced the creation of a new anti-impunity unit in the prosecutor's office that will work on politically sensitive corruption cases and have strong backing from the US government, although it lacks direct international participation.

  • Militarization and Crime: Central America’s Dangerous Gamble

    Guatemalan military on a joint patrol with the police

    A new report indicates that Central American states have increasingly relied on the military to fight crime with help from the United States, a decision which may bear consequences for human rights and levels of violence within the young democracies.

  • El Salvador Gangs Wielding More Weapons of War

    M-16 confiscated from a gang in El Salvador

    The government of El Salvador's militarized campaign against the country's street gangs has been met by an increasingly heavily armed reaction. El Faro's investigation indicates that the gangs' growing use of assault rifles is an echo of the civil war that ended almost 25 years ago.

  • El Salvador Gang Reportedly Got Military Training

    Cerro Guazapa: From guerrilla camps to gang training centers.

    New testimony indicates that the Barrio 18 gang's Revolutionaries faction in El Salvador paid former soldiers and guerrillas to provide gang members with firearms and martial arts training in 2014, reviving an issue that has been the subject of debate for several years.

Investigations

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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...

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...

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.

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...

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...

'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...

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...