El Salvador Prisons

and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

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El Salvador News

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

  • NewsBriefs: 7 March 2011

    • Private security companies in El Salvador may be diverting weapons to the black market, La Prensa Grafica reports. According to the newspaper, the total manpower of these companies is far superior to those in the National Police ranks. The 274 private security companies employ a total of 25,000 men who have access to approximately 19,000 weapons, in comparison to the 20,300 members of the police corp. Some 1,700 of these arms end up in the black market after being reported as missing, according to the police.
  • RawFeed: State Dept Traces Narco Grenades

    Retailers in the U.S. are a major source of weapons for Mexican drug trafficking organizations, but many of their armaments are from military sources.

  • 3 Months After Passing Anti-Gang Law, El Salvador's Courts Await Implementation

    Three months after the government passed a tough new law criminalizing gang membership, El Salvador’s Attorney General has yet to enforce it. Despite criticism from the press and other governmental organizations, the Attorney General says he simply has not yet been given enough evidence to prosecute a case using the new law.

  • El Salvador Prison Workers Fired In Masse Corruption Sweep

    The Salvadorean government has dismissed 330 prison staff members since Friday, in an attempt to crack down on gang activity.

  • How 'Mano Dura' is Strengthening Gangs

    The United Nations and U.S. Southern Command estimate there are approximately 70,000 gang members, or so-called maras, most of them concentrated in the Northern Triangle: 36,000 in Honduras, 10,500 in El Salvador and 14,000 in Guatemala. Most of these are concentrated in two gangs: the Mara Salvatrucha-13 (MS-13) and Barrio 18 (18). The gangs have a grave impact on the security situation in the region. Maras extort, kidnap, and murder local rivals, neighbors and security personnel. Their grip on many communities has crippled them and forced governments to reassess their security strategies. Their rise has also corresponded to higher murder rates. The Northern Triangle currently ranks as the most dangerous place in the world, according to the United Nations.·

  • Salvadoran Policeman Dies on Ranch controlled by 'Zetas' in Mexico

    After the July 24 death of a Salvadoran policeman on a ranch in Mexico along the US border that Mexican authorities say was controlled by the Zetas criminal syndicate, ElSalvador.com explores why Jesús Elías was there in the first place.

  • El Salvador Implements New Gang Law

    El Salvador's hard-line law against gang activity officially took effect on Sunday, although the Attorney General's Office told La Prensa Grafica the legislation is not yet being enforced due to technicalities.

  • 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.

Investigations

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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...

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.

'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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...