During 2015, violence in El Salvador surged to critical levels, and began to accelerate in January when MS13 and Barrio 18 gang leaders were transferred back to maximum-security prisons.1 In February, Ricardo Salvador Martinez — head of police internal affairs — declared that “we’re at war” with the gangs.2 March then set a record as the most violent month since the end of El Salvador’s Civil War in 1992, with 481 murders — only to be surpassed by May (622 murders), June (677), and then August (907) as the bloodiest month of the past two decades.3
Driving the spike in violence has been the MS13 and Barrio 18, whose leaders are demanding the government revive the 2012 truce and curtail anti-gang legislation and security efforts.4 Gang-driven violence and threats have thus been viewed as a means of pressuring the government into negotiations. For instance, in late July there was a gang-enforced transportation “boycott,” when gang members (believed to be from the Barrio 18’s Revolucionarios faction) ordered bus drivers to go on strike or else suffer the consequences.5
Attacks against security forces have also increased, with gang members allegedly attacking security personnel over 250 times in 2015 through May — an average of two confrontations per day.6 Police intelligence reports in April asserted the MS13 ordered cliques in the province of La Libertad to kill two police officers each, and that the MS13 and Barrio 18 were planning a combined offensive against the government.7 In June, police officers discovered a stolen car that had been booby-trapped with a grenade, an apparent attempt at killing police (members of the MS13 were the suspected culprits).8 Then, in August, Salvadoran authorities announced the MS13 and Barrio 18 were discussing a potential merger to form a unified gang structure and focus their aggression on state security forces.9
In response to increasing violence, the Salvadoran government has been ratcheting up security measures and hardening its rhetoric towards the gangs. For instance, in January 2015 the director of the National Civil Police (PNC) said police should use their weapons against criminals “with complete confidence.”10 President Salvador Sanchez Ceren then announced in May three battalions of Special Forces soldiers would be deployed to combat the gangs.11 Salvadoran judicial officials have also invoked the country’s anti-terrorism laws to prosecute gang members, and in August the Supreme Court declared the MS13 and Barrio 18 to be terrorist groups.12
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Security Policy
Accordingly, the experience of the gang truce, and the nature of gang-directed violence in its wake, raises the question as to how current conditions in El Salvador are to be interpreted. Namely, is the truce, and the gangs’ continued violent outbursts, indicative of the gangs’ collective evolution into more sophisticated actors? Or, is rising violence more an attempt at self-preservation by gang factions in the face of intensified pressure from rivals and security forces?
In an effort to reach an answer, the concept of “Third Generation Gangs” will be examined, exploring if its precepts hold sufficient explanatory power for understanding El Salvador’s gangs in the context of recent developments in the country.
Third Generation Gangs
Originally put forward by John P. Sullivan in the 1990s, the field of third generation gang studies seeks to understand the gang phenomenon and characteristics of contemporary criminal street gangs.13 It has since become one of the primary models for explaining gang behavior and development. The basic tenet is that some gangs evolve through three generations, transitioning from a traditional turf gang to a market-oriented drug gang, before becoming a third generation gang that mixes political and mercenary elements.14 Three factors are identified as determining the evolutionary potential of gangs: politicization, internationalization, and sophistication. What follows is a brief description of the characteristics defining each gang generation.
First Generation gangs are localized and relatively unsophisticated.15 They operate under loose leadership, with ill-defined roles and a focus on loyalty and turf protection (neighborhood or street). When they engage in criminal enterprise, it is largely opportunistic and individual in scope, and tends to be local in nature. First generation gangs operate at the low end of societal violence, and primarily engage in inter-gang rivalry.16 They are limited in political scope.
Second generation gangs are more entrepreneurial and drug-centered, and are organized for business and commercial gain. As such, they are more interested in market than turf protection, tending to focus their criminal endeavors on local drug distribution as a business.17 These gangs are also more cohesive, with greater centralization of leadership. They may embrace a broader political agenda — albeit focused on improving market share and revenue — and operate in a broader, sometimes multi-national context.18
Violence is typically a means to control competition, but may also be used as political interference to negate enforcement efforts directed against them by police and other security organizations. As they seek to control or incapacitate state security organizations, they may begin to dominate vulnerable communities.19
A third generation gang is a mercenary-type group with goals of power or financial acquisition. As they evolve, they develop into more sophisticated organizations with broader drug-related markets — operating at the global end of the spectrum — with ambitious political and economic agendas. Political action is intended to provide security and freedom of movement for gang activities, although quasi-terrorism or true terrorism may be embraced to advance influence and objectives.20
As a consequence, a third generation gang challenges the legitimate state monopoly on the use of violence within a given political territory.21 Typically, third generation gangs are the result of gangs maturing due to exposure to more sophisticated criminal enterprises, combined with access to an opportunity space conducive to enhanced sophistication and expanded reach.22
In short, third generation gangs are in a state of transition from street gang to sophisticated, networked criminal enterprises. They may, however, continue first and second generation actions as they expand their geographical presence and seek to further their commercial and political goals.23
To determine if El Salvador’s MS13 and Barrio 18 gangs are evolving into more sophisticated, internationalized, and politicized entities — transitioning from their first generation origins into full-blown third generation gangs — the effects of the truce on the gangs will be examined. Overall, while there are some signs the truce may have resulted in a reconfiguration of the gangs’ self-perception as political entities, there are reasons to believe the gangs’ post-truce behavior does not represent their collective maturation into third generation gangs, suggesting instead that the increase in violence is more indicative of autonomous manifestations of rebellion and self-preservation by gang factions.
The Post-Truce Context: Collective Maturation or Self-Preservation?
A persistent concern surrounding the gang truce is that it allowed the MS13 and Barrio 18 to become more sophisticated. Namely, there have been some indications the truce strengthened gang hierarchy by forcing the leadership to exert greater control in order to ensure the truce was respected.
Indeed, the significant drop in homicides following the truce’s implementation would suggest a certain degree of command and control on the part of gang leaders over members — although the increase in disappearances during the truce does call this into question. A factor possibly enabling the gangs to become more powerful and organized during the truce was that MS13 and Barrio 18 leaders were transferred to less restrictive prisons with greater access to the outside world.24
Increasing gang organization may in turn have fostered more transnational cooperation and coordination. Even during the truce, there was evidence of imprisoned leaders in El Salvador coordinating with members in the United States.25 There have also been some indications that the MS13 sought to establish a presence in Europe and South America, allegedly attempting to have members deported to countries where the gang was hoping to expand (although the extent of this to date appears limited).26
There were also suggestions the gangs (particularly the MS13) used the truce to become more integrated into the structures of regional transnational criminal organizations, solidifying ties to transportista (drug transit) networks and establishing connections with Mexican cartels.27
Notably, in October 2012, seven months after the truce began, the United States placed the MS13 on a list of transnational drug trafficking organizations — alongside powerful groups like Mexico’s Zetas — and later put economic sanctions on six MS13 leaders.28 In July 2013, Salvadoran Security Minister Ricardo Perdomo said that, over the course of the truce, “there are groups that have increased their drug trafficking activities,”and in June 2014, Alejandro Vila — a special prosecutor for the migrant unit in Chiapas, Mexico — said the MS13 was deepening its hold on illegal migration routes in Mexico.29
SEE ALSO: MS13 News and Profiles
Additionally, the gangs’ behavior during the truce suggests a degree of political identity and self-awareness. For instance, the rhetoric of the gangs took on a distinct political quality, with a number of press releases issued exhibiting a diplomatic tone and formality.30 This — combined with images of gang leaders holding discussions and negotiations with official intermediaries, in essence a de facto recognition by the government of the gangs as political actors — indicates (or gives the impression) of a new level of political awareness.
Indeed, it is possible MS13 and Barrio 18 leaders began to understand that territorial control and cohesion made it possible for them to extract concessions from the state.31 For example, the gangs have declared they have the power to influence elections. These statements were backed up by truce mediator Raul Mijango, who in October 2013 stated representatives of at least two of El Salvador’s top political parties had met with Barrio 18 and MS13 leaders, adding that the gangs are “an elector that can define the result” of presidential elections.32
In February 2014, Barrio 18 and MS13 leaders issued a statement claiming the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) political party almost lost the 2014 elections because it did not have the gangs’ backing.33 Douglas Farah has explained the possibility of the gangs becoming increasingly active in politics, not as political parties, but essentially as “votes for rent,” whereby the gangs deliver votes from areas under their control in exchange for political favors.34
Nonetheless, these isolated signs of the gangs’ possible evolution are offset by other occurrences suggesting otherwise, which indicate the MS13 and Barrio 18 are not undergoing a collective maturation process.
The cohesion of the MS13 and Barrio 18 should not be overestimated. While the MS13 and Barrio 18 obviously have a transnational presence — and, to a degree, can link their international network to conduct cross-border crimes — there is little evidence they operate as transnational criminal organizations. And despite the effects of the truce, it remains that the gangs are large, fundamentally loose-knit networks, and are better understood as a franchise of affiliated cliques than as coherent third generation gang entities.
For instance, during the truce, certain cliques and factions were difficult to control, being either uncooperative or unwilling to abide by the truce.35 There was also evidence of tensions between the gangs’ top leadership — who drove the truce process — and rank and file members. The cliques were largely excluded from the truce process, and there were rumblings of discontent among certain cliques that perceived gang leaders as disproportionally benefitting from the truce.36
SEE ALSO: Coverage of El Salvador’s Gang Truce
There have been other signs of disagreement and turmoil within the gangs as well. In August 2015, 14 members of the Barrio 18’s Revolucionarios faction were murdered at the Quezaltepeque prison. While the motive is unknown, authorities believed the killings were part of an “internal purge” within the Barrio 18. Indeed, there have been reports that rising violence in 2015 is due to intra-gang competition, with Salvadoran Security and Justice Minister Benito Lara attributing high homicide levels in August to “an internal rivalry between gangs and confrontations by criminals against the police.”37
Nor has violence and gang members’ participation in more sophisticated — or transnational — criminal activities since the truce been a collective advancement. For instance, it was the Barrio 18’s Revolucionarios faction that allegedly enforced the gang-ordered transportation strike in July.38 Similarly, in June 2015 there were indications the gangs were involved in an arms trafficking network that smuggled weapons into El Salvador from Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Yet the network only involved 16 of the MS13’s roughly 250 cliques, and of the 90 suspects arrested in connection to the case only 21 were MS13 members. It appears these MS13 members were primarily involved in buying and distributing guns within El Salvador, not coordinating the transnational sale of weapons themselves.39
Additionally, during and following the truce, the MS13 and Barrio 18 did not demonstrate a developed political agenda or coherent political action. Instead, violence appears to be more a reaction to the transfer of gang leaders back to maximum-security prisons, and a natural response in self-preservation against the government’s increasingly hard-line anti-gang stance — and perhaps against internal gang rivals as well — than an attempt to advance a significant political transformation.
Consequently, the truce, and rising violence in its wake, has not given way to the collective maturation of the MS13 and Barrio 18 into third generation gangs. Rather, violence appears to be more indicative of intra-gang rivalries and autonomous attempts at self-preservation during the ongoing fallout of the failed truce. Nonetheless, this does not mean certain segments of the gangs are not demonstrating the potential for evolving into more sophisticated actors. Instead, the third generation gang paradigm may offer only limited explanatory power to understanding El Salvador’s gangs in a post-truce context, calling for a reconfiguration in how the gangs are assessed.
Third Generation Gangs: Assessing the Paradigm
Third generation gang studies offers a useful guide for broadly understanding and characterizing the different stages of gang evolution in a variety of different contexts. Yet the paradigm is deficient in several respects, especially its lack of interpretation into how gang structure affects evolution processes and outcomes. That is, the paradigm offers little guidance for understanding internal gang dynamics and behavior, and the factors that may promote or lessen a gang’s movement towards increasing politicization, internationalization, and sophistication — beyond simply having an opportunity space afforded by weak institutions or exposure to more sophisticated criminal organizations.
In the context of El Salvador, it is inappropriate to think of the MS13 and Barrio 18 as monolithic organizations. Instead, we should try to understand them as franchised, disperse networks consisting of numerous cliques and factions. As such, perhaps it is incorrect to ask if the MS13 and Barrio 18 are experiencing a collective maturation, and instead ask what elements of the gangs are evolving, and why.
More specifically, while the truce may not be a sign of the collective evolution of the gangs, it may be a sign of the evolution of certain segments of the gang structure. For instance, it was imprisoned MS13 and Barrio 18 leaders that formulated, implemented, and oversaw the truce. Nonetheless, gang leaders had trouble keeping the cliques and violence in check as the truce unraveled — even though they reaffirmed the gangs’ commitment to the truce on multiple occasions — with some cliques expressing contempt for the truce and the lack of benefits it brought them.40
This leads to speculation that the gangs’ hierarchy is being stretched, with opposite ends of the gang structure moving in different directions given competing interests and agendas. The gangs’ older imprisoned leadership, for example, may be attempting to become more sophisticated political actors, negotiating with the government, while younger members on the street are more prone to violence, recklessness, and opportunistic crime — perhaps an indication of a generational split within the gangs. Or, it may be that, given the large membership of the Barrio 18 and MS13 and the territorial expanse of their networks, a separation within the ranks is inevitable, with gang factions that have competing agendas beginning to diverge from one another.
Refining the Paradigm
This leads to the need to incorporate new elements into the third generation gang paradigm to expand both its predictive and explanatory power. Greater tools are needed for assessing how, when, and if a gang — or elements of a gang — is evolving into a more sophisticated entity. This entails several areas in need of further study and development to assess their relevance in determining a gang’s evolutionary potential, as well as their potential inclusion into the third generation gang paradigm in order to enhance its ability to present a more refined understanding of gang evolution.
Pulling from the current case regarding El Salvador’s MS13 and Barrio 18 gangs, there are several areas where inquiry should begin. First, we can look at the effects of gang membership: are larger gangs more prone to evolve into third generation gangs than smaller gangs? Or is there a threshold where a gang becomes so large it fractures, with some gang elements evolving while others do not? Second, related to this are questions over what holds a gang structure or network together, be it incentives of loyalty, financial, or fear.
SEE ALSO: Barrio 18 News and Profile
Additionally, what role does the age of a gang play? This pertains not only to a gang’s age from the time of its formation, but also the age of key leaders. It is possible that older, seasoned leaders become more strategic and sophisticated over time, and seek to make the gang more internationalized, politicized, and sophisticated, having the connections from a lifetime of criminal activity to do so. In contrast, younger, less-educated gang members are more prone to excessive acts of violence and localized opportunistic crime.
Moreover, we need to consider how incarceration impacts gang development. For instance, the prison system has played a key role in the ability of the MS13 and Barrio 18 to organize and consolidate, serving as a “safe haven” from which to direct and conduct criminal activities.41 It may be prisons are an important, if not crucial factor allowing gangs to evolve into more sophisticated entities (and providing them with the necessary contacts to do so). Tied in with this is the role government security strategies play in driving gang maturation, as evidenced by El Salvador’s Mano Dura policies encouraging the adaptation of gang members to avoid detection.
Further exploring these questions and incorporating their findings into third generation theory may serve to better understand and predict gang evolution, and therefore aid policymakers and security officials in formulating strategy and efforts to prevent gangs from transitioning into more powerful and menacing entities.
1 While 2013 ended with a homicide rate 4% lower than 2012, murders began to rise in the second half of the year. This trend continued into 2014?in March of that year PNC director Rigoberto Pleites declared the truce to be “technically” over? with homicides reaching pre-truce levels by mid-July. By year’s end, 3,912 homicides had occurred?a 57% increase over 2013. Gurney, Kyra. “Homicides in El Salvador Reach Pre-Gang Truce Levels.” InSight Crime. July 8, 2014. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/homicides-in-el-salvador-reach-pre-truce-levels.; Lohmuller, Michael. “El Salvador Gang Truce ‘Technically’ Finished: Police.” InSight Crime. March 4, 2014. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-gang-truce-technically-finished-police.; Lohmuller, Michael. “El Salvador Murders Fall Slightly for 2013, but Rising Again.” InSight Crime. January 14, 2014. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-murders-fall-slightly-in-2013-but-rising-again.; Gurney, Kyra. “El Salvador Homicides Skyrocket After Gang Truce Unravels.” InSight Crime. January 9, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/analysis/el-salvador-homicides-skyrocket-after-gang-truce-unravels.; McCleskey, Claire. “El Salvador Police Report Rise in Homicides.” InSight Crime. July 2, 2013. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-police-report-rise-in-homicides.; Cawley, Marguerite. “Spate of Killings Shakes El Salvador Gang Truce.” InSight Crime. May 9, 2013. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-may-homicides-climb-to-65-as-ninth-peace-zone-launched.
2 In May, Salvadoran authorities also began desegregating prisons, transferring 650 MS13 members to a prison that had previously only held Barrio 18 members. Gagne, David. “El Salvador Moves Gang Leaders Back to Max-Security Prison.” InSight Crime. January 19, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-moves-gang-leaders-back-to-max-security-prisons.; Gagne, David. “Amid Historic Violence, El Salvador Ends Gang Segregation in Prisons.” InSight Crime. May 8, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/analysis/amid-historic-violence-el-salvador-ends-prison-segregation.; Daugherty, Arron. “‘We’re At War’ With Gangs: El Salvador Police Official.” InSight Crime. February 19, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-police-at-war-with-gangs.
3 The single most violent day of 2015 so far was August 17, when 42 people were killed. Gagne, David. “El Salvador Sees Most Violent Month in 10 Years.” InSight Crime. April 2, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-sees-most-violent-month-in-10-years.; Tabory, Sam. “El Salvador Sees Deadliest Month Since End of Civil War.” InSight Crime. June 1, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-most-violent-month-since-end-of-war.; Gagne, David. “June Replaces May as Most Violent Month in El Salvador Since War.” InSight Crime. July 6, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/june-replaces-may-as-most-violent-month-in-el-salvador-since-civil-war.; Lohmuller, Michael. “El Salvador Revisits Idea of Security Tax as Violence Peaks.” InSight Crime. August 19, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-revisits-idea-new-security-tax-violence-peaks.
4 Gang leaders called for a new peace process in both April and July, and on the latter occasion issued a joint statement asking the government for a “mechanism” to allow for dialogue and an eventual peace agreement. Tabory, Sam. “El Salvador Gangs Call for a Renewed Truce.” InSight Crime. July 17, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-gangs-call-for-a-renewed-truce.
5 The strike paralyzed capital-city San Salvador, and resulted in the murder of least seven transportation workers who refused to comply. Previous to the bus strike, in May and June, two videos surfaced of unconfirmed gang members offering threats of more violence if the government did not reduce its aggressive anti-gang strategies, and promising “war” if authorities refused to engage in dialogue. Lohmuller, Michael. “Gang-Enforced Bus Strike Increases Pressure on El Salvador Govt.” InSight Crime. July 28, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/gang-bus-strike-increases-pressure-el-salvador-government.; Riesenfeld, Loren. “El Salvador Sees Historic Violence as Gangs Challenge the Government.” InSight Crime. May 21, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-sees-historic-violence-as-gangs-challenge-the-government.; Tabory, Sam. “El Salvador ‘Gangs’ Issue Threats in Video.” InSight Crime. June 4, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-gangs-issue-threats-in-video.
6 Gang attacks against security forces began rising in 2014, with two ambushes occurring in April 2014 against police personnel. Bargent, James. “Ambushes of Police Fuel Fears Over El Salvador Gang Sophistication.” InSight Crime. April 8, 2014. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/abushes-of-police-fuel-fears-of-growing-el-salvador-gang-sophistication.; Dudley, Steven. “El Salvador Gangs and Security Forces Up the Ante in Post-Truce Battle.” InSight Crime. October 22, 2014. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/analysis/el-salvador-gangs-security-forces-battle-truce.; Gagne, David. “250 Gang Attacks on El Salvador Security Forces in 2015.” InSight Crime. May 18, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/250-gang-attacks-on-el-salvador-security-forces-in-2015.
7Daugherty, Arron. “MS13 Launches Police Assassination Campaign in El Salvador.” InSight Crime. April 8, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/ms13-launches-police-assassination-campaign-el-salvador.
8 Through mid-August 2015, 41 police officers and 15 soldiers had been killed. Gagne, David. “El Salvador Gang Targeted Police With Booby-Trapped Car: Official.” InSight Crime. June 18, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-gangs-grenade-car-police-attack.
9 The new “super-gang” was apparently going to be named “Mara 503,” after El Salvador’s international phone code. Tabory, Sam. “El Salvador Govt Warns of Unified Super Gang: Report.” InSight Crime. August 13, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-government-warns-of-unified-super-gangs.
10 Gagne, David. “El Salvador Police Chief Targets Rising Gang Violence.” InSight Crime. January 21, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-police-commander-green-light-gangs.
11 Riesenfeld, Loren. “El Salvador Sees Historic Violence as Gangs Challenge the Government.” InSight Crime. May 21, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-sees-historic-violence-as-gangs-challenge-the-government.
12 Attorney General Luis Martinez even proposed the idea of extraditing gang members to the United States on terrorist charges. Lohmuller, Michael. “El Salvador Now Using Anti-Terrorism Law to Tackle Gangs.” InSight Crime. August 12, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-now-using-anti-terrorism-law-tackle-gangs; Daugherty, Arron. “El Salvador Supreme Court Labels Street Gangs as Terrorist Groups.” InSight Crime. August 26, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-supreme-court-labels-street-gangs-as-terrorist-groups.; Gagne, David. “In El Salvador, Hysteria Trumps Security Policy.” InSight Crime. August 17, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/in-el-salvador-hysteria-trumps-security-policy.
13 Since then, it has been developed and explored by a number of scholars, particularly Robert Bunker and Max Manwaring.
15 Sullivan, John. “Third Generation Street Gangs: Turf, Cartels, and Net Warriors.” Transnational Organized Crime 3, no. 3 (Autumn 1997), 95.
16 Manwaring, Max. “Street Gangs: The New Urban Insurgency.” Strategic Studies Institute, 2005. 9.
18 Sullivan, “Third Generation Street Gangs,” 95-96.
19 Manwaring, “Street Gangs,” 10.
20 Sullivan, “Third Generation Street Gangs,” 96.
21 Manwaring, “Street Gangs,” 10.
22 Sullivan and Bunker, “Crucible of Conflict,” 5-6.
23 Manwaring, “Street Gangs,” 10.
24 Cawley, Marguerite. “Gangs Gain Most from El Salvador Truce: Opinion Poll.” InSight Crime. August 28, 2013. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/maras-gaining-most-from-truce-say-el-salvador-survey-respondents.
25 US surveillance has shown that both the MS13 and Barrio 18 maintain contact with US counterparts, and that the gangs sometimes extort US-based Salvadorans, suggesting a certain degree of coordination between US and Salvadoran members. Cawley, Marguerite. “Phone Tap Shows US – El Salvador MS13 Connections.” InSight Crime. October 29, 2013. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/phone-call-highlights-el-salvador-gang-connection-with-us.
26 Parkinson, Charles. “Italy Police Dismantle ‘MS13’ Gang.” InSight Crime. October 10, 2013. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/italy-police-dismantle-ms13-el-salvador-gang.; Robbins, Seth, and James Bargent. “El Salvador Gang Members ‘Setting Up MS13 Branch’ in Spain.” InSight Crime. March 26, 2014. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-gang-members-setting-up-ms13-branch-in-spain.
27 Farah, “Central American Gangs,” 8.; Cawley, Marguerite. “El Salvador Gangs Getting Deeper into Drug Trafficking: Police.” InSight Crime. December 18, 2013. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-gangs-deepening-drug-trafficking-involvement-police.
28 Stone, Hannah. “US Ranks MS13 Alongside Zetas in Gang List.” InSight Crime. October 12, 2012. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/analysis/us-ms13-zetas-transnational.; Bargent, James. “US Treasury Adds MS13 Leaders to Economic Sanctions List.” InSight Crime. June 6, 2013. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/us-treasury-adds-MS13-leaders-to-sanctions-list.
29 Various cells of the MS13 were allegedly attempting to establish control over routes used by migrants in areas of Chiapas state in Mexico, targeting the migrants for extortion and kidnapping. Cawley, Marguerite. “El Salvador Gangs Using Truce to Strengthen Drug Ties: Official.” InSight Crime. July 19, 2013. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-gangs-using-truce-to-strengthen-drug-ties-security-minister.; Cawley, Marguerite. “MS13 Expanding After Truce Collapse in El Salvador?” InSight Crime. June 2, 2014. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/ms13-expanding-after-truce-collapse-in-el-salvador.
31 Farah, Douglas. “The Transformation of El Salvador’s Gangs into Political Actors.” 2012. Accessed September 14, 2015. https://csis.org/publication/transformation-el-salvadors-gangs-political-actors, 1.
32 Parkinson, Charles. “El Salvador Meetings Raise Question about Gangs’ Political Might.” InSight Crime. October 24, 2013. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-opposition-leader-meets-with-gangs.
33 Gagne, David. “El Salvador Gangs Outline Political Motives of Violence.” InSight Crime. March 2, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-gangs-outline-political-motives-violence.
34 Such a dynamic between gangs and political parties has been observed in Jamaica, with gangs controlling the different areas of Kingston aligning with different politicians in return for benefits. Farah, “Central American Gangs,” 8.
35 This was observed in the town of La Union, near the border of Honduras, where violence levels stayed high as a result of MS13 and Barrio 18 cliques refusing to go along with the truce. Wells, Miriam. “‘Gangs Unable to Enforce Truce in Eastern El Salvador'” InSight Crime. March 13, 2013. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/maras-unable-to-enforce-truce-in-eastern-el-salvador.
37 Gagne, David. “Record Violence and Displacement Echoes El Salvador’s War Zone Past.” InSight Crime. September 2, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/record-violence-and-displacement-echoes-el-salvador-s-war-zone-past.
38 Gang-ordered bus strikes are not a novelty for El Salvador. In September 2010, in protest of recently enacted gang legislation, the MS13 and Barrio 18 issued a joint warning for public transportation operators to stay home for three days or face reprisals. Seelke, “Gangs in Central America,” 4.
39 Nonetheless, elements of the MS13 and Barrio 18 have been enhancing their weapons capacities, acquiring automatic rifles such as AK-47s, along with grenades and other military-grade weapons. In the past, it has been common for elements of the Salvadoran military to be implicated in the region’s illicit arms trade and supply such weapons. Daugherty, Arron, and Elyssa Pachico. “El Salvador Gangs Involved in Arms Trafficking Network.” InSight Crime. June 19, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/el-salvador-gangs-involved-arms-trafficking-network.; Farah, “Central American Gangs,” 9.
40 Yagoub, Mimi. “El Salvador Gang Leaders Keen to Maintain Faltering Truce.” InSight Crime. March 16, 2014. Accessed September 14, 2015. /news/briefs/why-are-el-salvador-gangs-so-keen-to-maintain-failing-truce.
41 Sullivan and Bunker, “Crucible of Conflict,” 7-8.