Barrio 18 members in Honduras

Figures compiled by a Honduras newspaper provide an illustration of the strongholds and scale of the country's two most powerful street gangs, the MS13 and the Barrio 18.

Sixty percent of the country's Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18 gang members are concentrated in three sectors of San Pedro Sula, the world's murder capital, according to figures obtained by La Prensa. Within this city, gang allegiance is split fairly evenly: an estimated 51 percent of gang members, some 1,034, belong to the MS13, while the remaining 1,001 form part of the Barrio 18 (see graph below).

The rest of the Barrio 18 and MS13 gang members reside mainly in capital Tegucigalpa or in smaller cities, with the municipalities of Choloma, Danli, and El Paraiso home to both groups, according to La Prensa (see graph below).

Honduras has an estimated 116,000 gang members, including members of smaller groups like the Chirizos, West Side, and the Mara 61, reported La Prensa. Over 4,700 gang members reside in prison, according to Unicef figures.

Gang members typically start interacting with their gang at around age seven and have been integrated into the group by about age 12, reported La Prensa. In 2014, more than 500 minors were arrested, of which at least 350 were identified as members of these street-level criminal groups.

InSight Crime Analysis

The figures compiled by La Prensa provide a snapshot of the MS13 and Barrio 18 in Honduras, demonstrating the sizable presence both gangs maintain in San Pedro Sula. Gang activity appears to be a major driver of violence in this city, which has had the highest murder rate in the world for the past four years. One factor likely contributing to the bloodshed -- which is highlighted by La Prensa's figures -- is that the MS13 and Barrio 18 have roughly the same number of members in San Pedro Sula, which has probably prevented either group from gaining a firm foothold and instead fostered continual battles for territorial control.

SEE ALSO: Honduras News and Profiles

La Prensa's numbers also point to the significant presence of smaller gangs in Honduras. While the MS13 and Barrio 18 appear to be the dominant groups in San Pedro Sula, smaller gangs are present throughout the country, some of whom work with transnational organized crime. Members of the street gang the Chirizos, for example, reportedly started out as lookouts and drug couriers for other groups and have since evolved into a formidable threat in the city of Comayaguela with support from drug trafficking organizations that employ their services. 

Investigations

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

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

As it tends to happen in Honduras, the news began as a well-heeled rumor: Javier Rivera Maradiaga, the oldest of the three Rivera Maradiaga brothers still alive and leader of the feared and powerful Honduran drug trafficking group known as the Cachiros, had handed himself in to...

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Organized crime is not an abstract concept for me. I grew up in Oak Park, a leafy suburb of Chicago with a population of about 60,000. In general, it was a very low crime city, which is perhaps why many mobsters made their homes there, among them...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Like any arm of the justice system, the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) had its battles with elites who used their charm and their muscle to try to influence what and who the celebrated commission...

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

This project defines organized crime as: a structured group of people that associate on a regular and prolonged basis to benefit from illicit activities and illegal markets. This group can be local, national or transnational in nature, and its existence is maintained using violence and threats; corruption...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Rodrigo Tovar Pupo never imagined it would come to this: dressed in an orange jumpsuit in a Washington DC courtroom and standing in front of a United States federal judge, the grandson of a wealthy Colombian cattle rancher and nephew to a governor was facing a possible...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala is Central America’s most populous country and its largest economy. But an intransigent elite, an ambitious military and a weak state has opened the way for organized crime to flourish, especially since the return of democracy.

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...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

On the morning of April 5, 1988, Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros left his palatial Tegucigalpa estate for a jog. Matta Ballesteros was wanted for murder, drug trafficking and other crimes in several countries, but in Honduras he felt safe. He regularly hosted parties for high-level officials at...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

By the end of 1993, Pablo Escobar was cornered. The cocaine king -- known as "El Patrón" -- was running out of money and options. His top assassins were either dead or had turned themselves in. Almost all of the senior members of the Medellín Cartel were...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

In the northwest corner of Guatemala, a little known criminal organization known as the "Huistas" dominates the underworld, in large part due its ties with businessmen, law enforcement officials and politicians.