Moris Alexander Bercian Manchon, alias “El Barney,” is one of six Salvadoran MS-13 members sanctioned by the United States for participation in illicit transnational actvities including drug trafficking. He is the leader of the MS-13 “program” the “Normandie Locos Salvatruchos” or simply “La Normandy” which runs “cliques,” or cells, along El Salvador’s western Pacific Coast, and is believed to control drug distribution in the Santa Ana, Ahuachapan, and Sonsonate provinces.
Barney’s criminal history includes various arrests between 2002 and 2007, for crimes including aggravated homicide and extortion. In September 2009, he was caught with seven kilos of cocaine in La Libertad province, south of the capital San Salvador, a large amount of drugs for an MS-13 member. However, he was later released on a technicality and the decision was upheld, a move criticized by Public Security Minister Manuel Melgar as an indication that judges favor “mareros” (members of the MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs). According to police intelligence, Barney paid off several judges to secure his release.
Police have also linked Barney to a shipment of 113 kilos of cocaine valued at $2,825,000 intercepted on a boat off Zuncita beach in Sonsonate on November 7, 2012, that was headed for the United States.
El Barney Factbox
DOB: October 30, 1984
Group: Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) Normandie Locos Salvatrucha
Criminal Activities: Drug trafficking, drug sales, money laundering, murder
Area of Operation: Sonsonate, La Libertad, Santa Ana, Ahuachapan (El Salvador)
Status: At large
Barney has been accused of involvement in 50 homicides, in some of which the bodies were cut up, disposed of in plastic garbage bags, and thrown along public highways, according to investigative news outlet El Faro.
Barney’s financial activities follow patterns typical of money launderers. By 2008, he owned at least 14 properties used for various purposes. He is also one of the owners of a bus company called Ruta 42-B which operates in Santa Tecla, La Libertad (near the capital San Salvador), which according to police has ties to the political party Gran Alianza por la Unidad Nacional (GANA). Police intelligence indicates that the party has provided a political and legal safe haven to Barney and were part of the team that pressured the local judges to drop the 2009 drug charges.
In June 2013 El Barney was added to the US Treasury’s list of Specially Designated Nationals subject to economic sanctions, along with five other MS-13 leaders.
What sets Barney apart from other MS-13 leaders is his level of influence. It is not common for MS-13 members to be transporters of drugs in their own right, particularly not on a transnational level; Barney, however, is thought to possibly move drugs to Guatemala from his area of control near the border.
His power is thought to stem in part from his father’s connections. Former Salvadoran army colonel Asmael Antonio Bercian Rivera, alias “El Tiburon,” is allegedly linked to some of El Salvador’s most powerful criminals. He has been linked to Mexican drug trafficking organization the Texis Cartel. According to police, he owns hardware stores used as a cover operation for moving cocaine, and uses gang members to do the grunt work.
It is unclear whether Barney’s network includes other international connections, although one possibility would be Mexico’s Zetas.
El Barney and his program are involved in drug transportation and distribution, possibly at a transnational level; murder; and possibly money laundering.
Barney operates in Santa Ana, Ahuachapan and Sonsonate provinces, where he controls drug distribution, possibly moving cocaine to Guatemala.
Allies and Enemies
Likely allies include the Texis Cartel and the Zetas, while a major enemy of the MS-13 is the Barrio 18 street gang.
Barney was most likely only able to establish a transnational drug trafficking network thanks to his father’s connections. Nevertheless, his apparent success could have serious implications for future operations of the MS-13, as he is an example of how gang members can successfully make the leap into more sophisticated criminal operations.