The Complete Organized Crime Database on the Americas
In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right hand side is a man in a hat, also in a white shirt, but with a blue neckerchief. He is Juan Umaña Samayoa, a candidate for reelection for mayor of Metapan, located in the department of Santa Ana, in the west of El Salvador, for the Party of National Reconciliation. In the background, a red tent and the silhouettes of an apparently large group of people.
The woman phoned the office of the antinarcotics division (DAN) in Bolivar, in El Salvador's La Union province, on August 13, 2008, at 1:30 PM. Investigators later established that what she told agent Javier Ramon Aguilar Ordoñez during that phone call was the story of a drug trafficking network led by Juan Maria Medrano, alias "Juan Colorado."
The experience with Jose Natividad "Chepe" Luna -- the drug trafficker who had eluded a giant dragnet in 2004 -- had demonstrated that the leaks from the National Police of El Salvador (PNC) were continuous and, in general, all the history of the contraband in the west had an extensive element of police and district attorney collusion. With that in mind, the Special Antinarcotics Group (GEAN) decided to send the newest police to the stations of La Union and San Miguel to collect intelligence about the movement of drugs and to begin assembling cases against the transporters. Thus was born Operation Chameleon.
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.
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 Saca in 2004 with a proposal: take down this Chepe Luna.
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 town's mayor, Hector Odir Ramirez, and the infamous drug and people trafficker Jose Natividad Luna Pereira, alias "Chepe Luna." Also present were undercover narcotics agents, who immediately recognized Menesses as the director of El Salvador's National Civil Police (PNC).
El Salvador's police chief has denied the country's murder rate is rising and accused the media of misleading reporting, raising questions as to why he is downplaying the homicide spike that has accompanied the weakening of the country's gang truce.
Criminal agendas could represent a critical "blind spot" in attempts to resolve armed conflicts in Latin America, capable of sabotaging negotiations and derailing entire peace processes. Taking these agendas into account in two ongoing peace processes in Latin America could now be the difference between sustainable peace and continued turmoil.
The release of recordings and documents purporting to show how the El Salvador government paid off gang leaders to secure the country's gang truce is being wielded as a political weapon by the opposition, though doubts over the veracity of the evidence remain.
Eight drug traffickers with links to the Texis Cartel have been convicted after months of their case being pushed around El Salvador's justice system, in the first sign that the impunity the group has so far enjoyed may finally be cracking.