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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.

El Salvador Intensifies Attempts to Break Gangs' Control over Prisons

El Salvador Intensifies Attempts to Break Gangs' Control over Prisons

Authorities in El Salvador have announced a massive transfer of incarcerated MS13 and Barrio 18 members to a single prison facility, in an effort to reverse the gangs' consolidation of power within the penitentiary system. 

Divine Intervention: The El Salvador Gang Members Who Found God

Divine Intervention: The El Salvador Gang Members Who Found God

It's happening in the streets, in the communities still controlled by gangs, and in the segregated prisons. It's a phenomenon which, despite being hard to believe at first, has been recognized by prison authorities: Hundreds of gang members are abandoning and outright rejecting their gangs, opting instead for the teachings of evangelical churches. In Gotera prison, close to 500 members of the Barrio 18 have retired from gang life and are now saying that they have no relation with the group. In some communities in San Salvador, ex-members of the MS13 openly preach in rival territory. Is El Salvador ready...

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 the economy bustles with everything from chicken stands to men who can build customized jail cells. Here you can find a party stocked with champagne and live music. But you can also find an inmate hacked to pieces. Those who guard these quarters are also those who get rich selling air-conditioned rooms, and...

Negotiations Between El Salvador Govt, MS13 Prove Elusive

Negotiations Between El Salvador Govt, MS13 Prove Elusive

The administration of El Salvador President Salvador Sánchez Cerén insists that it will not negotiate with the MS13 gang, which made a public proposal at the beginning of January that included its own dismantlement. The most recent signals coming from the government suggest that the proposal won't be taken seriously. Nonetheless, there are also indications that parallel attempts at dialogue could be made.

The Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) is the hemisphere's largest, most formidable and increasingly its most sophisticated street gang. This ongoing investigative series tackles its evolution from various perspectives.