The Perrones are El Salvador’s most infamous transportation group. Made up of a mix of hoteliers, human smugglers, and contraband traders, the group’s activities stretch from Panama to Guatemala. Working from their eastern front, along the border with Honduras, many of them carry dual citizenship with the neighboring country, which allows them to move easily across the porous borders they use to move their products. They appear to answer offers of many suitors, mostly Colombian and Mexican groups but also Guatemalan organizations, that move large quantities of drugs and other contraband north toward the United States and bulk cash south. Many of the Perrones’ leaders have been arrested and charged with various crimes, but the cases against them have fallen apart in El Salvador’s weak justice system.
The 18th Street Gang, also known as "Barrio 18," is one of the largest youth gangs in the Western Hemisphere. Like its better-known rival, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13), the Barrio 18 has cells operating from Central America to Canada, including the United States. With thousands of members across hundreds of kilometers, and interests in a number of different illicit activities, Barrio 18 is one of the more significant emerging criminal threats in the region. Still, it is questionable how far its different units are coordinated across borders, or even within the same city.
Unlike some Central American gangs that have earned fame for their brutality and their liberal use of violence, the Cartel de Texis has developed a reputation for a more business-like approach to the drug trade. But as the report by Salvadoran news site El Faro about the group illustrates, while the gang isn’t known for leaving a trail of dead behind, it has nonetheless turned itself into one of the more formidable criminal groups in El Salvador, and a vital link for Colombians and Mexicans seeking to move cocaine through the tiny nation.
The Mara Salvatrucha, or MS13, is perhaps the most notorious street gang in the Western Hemisphere. While it has its origins in the poor, refugee-laden neighborhoods of 1980s Los Angeles, the gang's reach now extends from Central American nations like El Salvador and through Mexico, the United States, and Canada. They rob, extort and bully their way into neighborhoods and have gradually turned to transnational crimes such as human smuggling and drug trafficking. Their activities have helped make the Northern Triangle -- Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras -- the most violent place in the world that is not at war. In October 2012, the US Department of the Treasury labeled the group a "transnational criminal organization," the first such designation for a US street gang.