A Salvadoran soldier with his face covered

The Salvadoran army has dismissed an increasing number of troops for suspected gang affiliation, indicating growing attempts by gangs to infiltrate the armed forces, or alternatively, a greater effort on the part of the military to identify potential infiltrators.

A freedom of information request by El Diario de Hoy uncovered documents from the Salvadoran defense ministry showing that 223 alleged gang members were dismissed from the army between January and September of this year -- roughly 30 percent more than the 170 gang-related dismissals that occurred during the previous four years combined.

Of the total 393 troops expelled since 2010, two were deputy sergeants, two were corporals, and the rest were lower-ranking soldiers. It remains unclear whether these soldiers were simply expelled, or whether they were also investigated, arrested and charged for their alleged gang affiliations.

According to the report, gang infiltration has affected the majority of military divisions, including the navy, the air force, logistical support units and even medical staff. Only one unit, the First Infantry Brigade, did not register any dismissals due to suspected gang infiltration.

Particularly concerning is the revelation of alleged gang ties among 16 members of the Special Forces Command, which were deployed to several cities earlier this year to assist police in combating the country’s gangs.

InSight Crime Analysis

Increased attention to the problem of gang infiltration on the part of military officials could explain the rapid rise in the number of dismissals over the past two years. Gang infiltration of the security forces is hardly a new development in El Salvador, but given ongoing reports suggesting troops have engaged in arms trafficking and smuggling contraband into prisons on behalf of gang members, the recent increase in expulsions could signal stronger efforts to stamp out military corruption.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

On the other hand, the large increase in the number of dismissals observed could also indicate growing attempts by Salvadoran gangs to directly infiltrate the armed forces. Salvadoran military officials have previously warned that the country’s gangs are seeking to directly infiltrate the police and armed forces in order to obtain intelligence, training, arms, uniforms and other information or materiel that could prove useful in carrying out their criminal activities.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

In October 2012, the US Treasury Department designated the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a transnational criminal organization (TCO). While this assertion seems unfounded, there is one case that illustrates just why the US government is worried about the future.

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 leader Carlos Lechuga Mojica, alias "El Viejo Lin," is one of the most prominent spokesmen for El Salvador's gang truce. InSight Crime co-director Steven Dudley spoke with Mojica in Cojutepeque prison in October 2012 about how the maras view the controversial peace process, which has...

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

On May 27, 1964 up to one thousand Colombian soldiers, backed by fighter planes and helicopters, launched an assault against less than fifty guerrillas in the tiny community of Marquetalia. The aim of the operation was to stamp out once and for all the communist threat in...

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

The United States -- which through its antinarcotics, judicial and police attaches was very familiar with the routes used for smuggling, and especially those used for people trafficking and understood that those traffickers are often one and the same -- greeted the new government of Elias Antonio...

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

While there is no doubt that the FARC have only a tenuous control over some of their more remote fronts, there is no evidence of any overt dissident faction within the movement at the moment.

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

If we are to believe the Colombian government, the question is not if, but rather when, an end to 50 years of civil conflict will be reached. Yet the promise of President Juan Manuel Santos that peace can be achieved before the end of 2014 is simply...

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

When considering the possibilities that the FARC may break apart, the Ivan Rios Bloc is a helpful case study because it is perhaps the weakest of the FARC's divisions in terms of command and control, and therefore runs the highest risk of fragmentation and criminalization.

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

Ricardo Mauricio Menesses Orellana liked horses, and the Pasaquina rodeo was a great opportunity to enjoy a party. He was joined at the event -- which was taking place in the heart of territory controlled by El Salvador's most powerful drug transport group, the Perrones -- by the...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...