• Connect with us on Linkedin

El Salvador Gangs Teach Honduras Counterparts Secret Codes

  • Written by David Gagne
  • Tuesday, 26 August 2014
Coded message used by gangs Coded message used by gangs

Imprisoned gang leaders in Honduras are receiving instructions from their counterparts in El Salvador on how to transmit coded messages, reported El Heraldo, highlighting the collaboration between gangs in the two countries.

Linkedin
Google +

According to intelligence information obtained by Honduran newspaper El Heraldo, gang members from El Salvador have entered Honduras to train their incarcerated counterparts and new recruits in secret communication techniques.

As a result of a government initiative to block cellphone signals near the country's prisons, gangs in Honduras -- such as the Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) -- are resorting to coded messages police refer to as "willas" to maintain contact between incarcerated leaders and members on the outside, El Heraldo said.

SEE ALSO: Honduras News and Profiles

The coded language, comprised of a seemingly random mix of letters and figures, is used to order assassinations and other crimes, as well as send motivational messages reminding gang members to remain strong and united, the report said. According to security officials cited in the story, these messages are communicated via handwritten notes, as well as social media sites.

InSight Crime Analysis

Reports of Salvadoran gang members training their Honduran counterparts to use coded messages illustrate the level of communication and coordination between groups in the two countries. Barrio 18 and MS13 members in Honduras maintain ties to their counterparts in neighboring El Salvador, which is considered the spiritual headquarters of both gangs.

The interactions come when gang members seek refuge in territories controlled by others from their group based in the neighboring country. It may also include exchange of weapons, tactical knowledge and intelligence.

The gangs have also communicated more as the MS13 and Barrio 18 negotiated a truce in El Salvador. For a time, a similar effort seemed to be afoot in Honduras, but that negotiation process quickly fizzled. And El Salvador's truce unraveled this year during a handover of presidential power.  

The use of coded messages also reflects the gangs' ability to adapt to changes in law enforcement tactics. Incarcerated gang members in Honduras previously relied on cell phones to conduct operations and commit crimes, including extortion, from their jail cells. Most of the top leadership of these gangs in both countries are in jail.

In December 2013, however, Honduras passed a law blocking cell phone signals where prisons are located in an effort to weaken the ability of incarcerated gang members to send orders from behind bars. Faced with the same problems, authorities in El Salvador adopted a similar measure in May.

SEE ALSO: Barrio 18 Profile

Central American gangs aren't the only criminal groups who have used coded messages to communicate. In 2012, authorities in Mexico dismantled a communication system used by the Knights Templar cartel, which employed secret codes to communicate via radio, while the Zetas have reportedly used a similar system.

Linkedin
Google +

---

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We also encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, provided that it is attributed to InSight Crime in the byline, with a link to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

InSight Crime Search

The Complete Organized Crime Database on the Americas

InSight Crime Social

facebooktwittergooglelinkedin

InSight Crime Special Series

The Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

Los Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

After the capture of Zetas boss "Z40," Nuevo Laredo is bracing itself for the worst. This investigation breaks down what makes the city such an important trafficking corridor, and what it will take for the Zetas to maintain their grip on the city.

See entire series »

 

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill

Uruguay: Marijuana, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

Uruguay is poised to become the first country on the planet to regulate the production, sale, and distribution of the drug.

See entire series »

El Salvador's Gang Truce

El Salvador's Gang Truce

The truce between El Salvador's two largest gangs -- the MS-13 and the Barrio 18 -- opens up new possibilities in how to deal with

See entire series »

Juarez After The War

Juarez After The War

As a bitter war between rival cartels grinds to an end, Ciudad Juarez has lost the title of world murder capital, and is moving towards something more like normality.

See entire series »

The Zetas And The Battle For Monterrey

The Zetas and the Battle for Monterrey

InSight Crime delves into the Zetas' battle for Mexico’s industrial capital, Monterrey, getting to the essence of a criminal gang that defies easy definition.

See entire series »

Slavery in Latin America

Slavery in Latin America

InSight Crime coordinated an investigation into modern slavery, looking at how Latin America’s criminal groups traffic human beings and force them to work as slaves.

See entire series »

FARC, Peace and Criminalization

FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

The possibility of ending nearly 50 years of civil conflict is being dangled before Colombia. While the vast majority of the Colombian public want to see peace, the enemies of the negotiations appear to be strong, and the risks inherent in the process are high.

See entire series »

Displacement in Latin America

Displacement in Latin America

InSight Crime coordinated an investigation into the new face of displacement in Latin America, where organized criminal groups are expanding and forcing people to flee.

See entire series »

Target: Migrants

Target: Migrants

The growth of organized crime in Mexico and Central America has led to an increase in violence and insecurity across the region, posing challenges to citizens, public security forces, and travelers.

See entire series »

Zetas in Guatemala

The Zetas in Guatemala

Mexico's Zetas have taken Guatemala by storm, and they are testing this country and the rest of the region: fail this test, and Central America sinks deeper into the abyss.

See entire series »

Most Read

Few Escape Extortion in Medellin, Colombia

Few Escape Extortion in Medellin, Colombia

According to a Colombian business federation, 90 percent of small business owners in the Medellin area are victims of extortion, a figure that underscores both the prevalence of the crime and its enormous economic impact.

Read more

Closer to Global Drug Policy Reform? Not So Fast

Closer to Global Drug Policy Reform? Not So Fast

A report by a panel of high-profile political figures states that the taboo around discussing new approaches to drug regulation has been broken. But while alternative drug policy advocates have enjoyed significant victories in the past...

Read more

Did Narco-Linked El Salvador Congressman Plan Hit on Top Prosecutor?

Did Narco-Linked El Salvador Congressman Plan Hit on Top Prosecutor?

El Salvador's attorney general has accused a congressman of plotting his murder, adding a new twist to an ongoing case that has exposed alleged close ties between the legislator and a major drug trafficking network.

Read more

Latest Criminal Profile