The Allegory of El Salvador’s ‘Dany Boy’: MS13 Gang Leader, Activist, or Both?

Dany Balmore Romero García faces trial in El Salvador on charges of participating in gang activities and conspiring to commit murder. The case against him illustrates just how difficult it is to determine who is a gang member, and why it's so important.

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El Salvador News

El Salvador Fugitive Tycoon Hiding Out in Switzerland: Report

El Salvador Fugitive Tycoon Hiding Out in Switzerland: Report

A journalistic investigation has revealed that Enrique Rais, a fugitive from corruption charges in El Salvador who is also reportedly the subject of a US investigation, has been living in a luxurious hideout in Switzerland, showcasing how Salvadoran elites are able to use their influence to evade justice.

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

  • The El Salvador Gang That Kills Its Gay Members

    The inside of a prison in El Salvador

    A double homicide inside a juvenile detention center uncovered an unwritten rule within El Salvador's MS13 gang: under no circumstances are members allowed to be homosexual.

  • Growing Number of El Salvador Security Forces Face Charges

    Police officers in El Salvador

    The number of security officials in El Salvador who have been charged with a crime rose by over 50 percent in 2016, a development that may well be linked to the growing hostilities between police and the country's formidable street gangs. 

  • 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 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 not mention that he amassed a fortune of $60 million, all the while escaping the justice system.

  • In About-Face, El Salvador Govt Reopens 'Chepe Diablo' Case

    José Adán Salazar Umaña, alias Chepe Diablo

    When Luis Martínez was the Attorney General in 2015, he ordered his subordinates to shelve the money laundering investigation against businessman José Adán Salazar Umaña. Now, with Martínez out and facing accusations of corruption, the Attorney General’s Office has reactivated the case against Salazar Umaña, alias "Chepe Diablo," and members of his so-called Texis Cartel, and it has officially requested information from the United States and various countries of Central America through diplomatic channels. 

  • Cargo Robberies in Northern Triangle Hamper Regional Commerce

    Authorities investigate the scene of a cargo robbery

    Criminal groups are stealing commercial shipments transiting Central America's Northern Triangle, illustrating how insecurity in the region is negatively impacting regional trade.

  • 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."

  • The Unbelievable Hell Inside El Salvador’s Prisons

    El Salvador's prisons are chronically overcrowded

    A plague of fungal skin diseases, untreated deadly infections, constant threats of tuberculosis epidemics, people fed with their own hands, extreme overcrowding and children locked up with their mothers. This is what the human rights observers reported during the first few months of the extraordinary measures implemented across prisons for El Salvador's gang members.

  • 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 the murders of several youths. Investigations also show an increase in communications between MS13 members incarcerated in El Salvador and gang cliques in Massachusetts, Virginia, New York, New Jersey and Maryland. And they illustrate that the incarcerated gang leadership has given explicit orders for the cells in those areas to take back the East Coast.

  • 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.

Investigations

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InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

In May 2011, a 26-year-old prison gang leader held 4,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, at bay for weeks. Humiliated nationally and internationally, it pushed President Hugo Chávez into a different and disastrous approach to the prison system.

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...