Gang members in El Salvador

El Salvador police have said rising homicides indicate the country's gang truce effectively no longer exists, raising questions as to whether the violence is because gang leaders have abandoned the pact, or have lost control of the ranks.

Rigoberto Pleites, director of El Salvador's National Police (PNC), told media police believe the two-year-old truce between the rival MS13 and Barrio 18 street gangs "technically no longer exists, given the increase in homicides in the past months," reported El Diario de Hoy.

However, Pleites added it was not for the police to pronounce the death of the truce, and whether it has a future depends on decisions made by the gang leaders.

In El Salvador, 484 homicides were reported between January 1 and March 1 this year, an average of eight per day. According to Pleites, street gangs were responsible for between 60 to 70 percent of the murders, and most of those were disputes between the groups.

InSight Crime Analysis

The gang truce in El Salvador has been slowly disintegrating for some time. Ricardo Perdomo, El Salvador's Security and Justice Minister, said this past November the truce was all but dead due to a rising murder rate, speculation that was fueled by the unearthing of mass graves linked to the gangs.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives and Negatives

However, for the police to unofficially pronounce the truce dead is a watermark in proceedings, especially since the truce has already been all but abandoned by political leaders ahead of elections. It is likely that all that now remains is for the truce's supporters and the gang leadership to admit the pact's failure, and for the post-mortem into its death to begin.

In the initial period of the truce, imprisoned leaders demonstrated a surprising ability to control mid-level commanders of semi-independent local units, or "clicas," and lower overall violence. The steadily rising homicides, therefore, raise questions as to whether these leaders no longer retain the obedience of the clicas and whether the individual factions have broken ranks and are acting independently.

If this is the case then it may represent a breakdown of the command hierarchy. Alternatively, it could be that the initial obedience was artificial and only in response to gang leaders' selling the benefits of the truce to clica heads. If the leaders of the clicas no longer see these benefits, this may explain their return to violence.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
Prev Next

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...

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...

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 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...

'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...