The Heirs to El Salvador’s Cocaine Trade: A Christmas Meeting

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Two days before Christmas Eve 2012, a group of gang members and state intelligence agents met with the Flores Escobar brothers, nephews of Reynerio Flores Lazo, the jailed boss of the Perrones drug trafficking organization, and the heirs to the cocaine trafficking business in eastern El Salvador.

It was an emergency meeting, also attended by business partners from Honduras, to discuss the Salvadoran police’s recent seizure, at the El Amatillo border crossing, of 193 kilos of cocaine which the band had transported from Costa Rica. This account is based on testimony of two people who were at the meeting.

At about 9 p.m. on December 22, TLS (one of those present) called his contact. He was in the Hotel Florencia in San Miguel, in a meeting with “Mara Gruesa,” an associate of Reynerio (“Neyo”) Flores Lazo, a drug trafficker and leader of the Perrones gang, who was sentenced to 80 years in jail on January 16, 2012. Also at the meeting were members of some Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) cliques with whom Neyo’s heirs had been doing business for some time. A few minutes later, Perla (another of those present in the meeting), began sending photos of cars that had arrived at the Hotel Florencia that night: newly purchased SUVs , some with Honduran license plates, and some, according to one source, assigned to agents with El Salvador’s state intelligence.

In a conversation via text message, Perla wrote: “There is a Christmas summit of Perrones taking place right now. The Flores family and Adidas [the alias of a state intelligence operative] are present and are organizing business with the cliques [groups within the MS-13]. Also here are those who have gone from being puppies to Perrones.” Here, Perla was referring to two of Reynerio’s nephews, who currently control a good portion of the movement of drugs from Costa Rica, and manage the relationship between these new Perrones and the members of MS-13 cliques the Teclas Locos Salvatruchos and Los Hollywood. “All of them were affected by the seizure at El Amatillo, and the Perrones had made an arrangement with Neyo’s nephews, Antonio Alexander and William, who are responsible for transporting the drugs to Guatemala. The nephews also are responsible for selling a portion to certain intermediaries of some cliques and factions of the Mara Salvatrucha,” said TLS.

Last year I published a report about the restructuring of the Perrones. In 2011 anti-narcotics intelligence bodies in El Salvador realized that the Perrones were moving significant quantities of cocaine from the Peñas Blancas border crossing between Costa Rica and Nicaragua; that other heirs of the Flores Lazo, Juan Colorado and Chepe Luna were again infiltrating the state in Honduras and El Salvador; and that since 2010, the gang’s junior partners had been once again buying real estate on the Honduran and Salvadoran coasts.

Shortly after that report, police director General Francisco Ramon Salinas, who was consulted by a reporter in San Salvador, confirmed without giving much detail that his agents were investigating the restructuring of the Perrones. The gang had its golden years between 2004 and 2007, when — with the help of official protection offered by a few anti-narcotics police commanders —  they consolidated their transformation from a disorganized group of dairy smugglers into a powerful federation of “narco-transporters.” At the end of 2008, under intense pressure from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and following disputes between Colorado and Reynerio, El Salvador’s Attorney General began a series of operations that ended with the principal leaders in jail or on the run as fugitives in Honduras. The gang’s power, however, was never really broken.

Between 2010 and last year, it was Hector Armando Flores Lazo and Reyna, another of Reynerio’s siblings, who kept the business running. They re-established control of the trafficking routes and polished up their business facades, especially with the sale of vegetable oil in Nicaragua. Hector Armando, however, had to leave El Salvador after he was linked to the death of Salvador Guzman Parada, alias “Truck,” an ex-member of the Salvadoran Army’s elite Atlacatl battalion. Truck became a state intelligence operative between the early 1990s and 2009, then a “freelance” intelligence agent, and finally an informant and contractor for the Perrones, according to one of his former companions in the military, who worked as Truck’s assistant for his entire intelligence career. After Hector Armando fell off the radar, according to these accounts, the second generation took charge.

The story of the meeting on December 22, according to the accounts of the two people who were present that day at the Hotel Florencia in San Miguel, speaks of a fluid criminal operation that is capable of broadening its collaboration with gang members and with state intelligence agents. Perla’s reports from that night offer an account of a caravan of luxury cars: one SUV after another pulling up to the Florencia, and hotel employees who spent the afternoon preparing tables covered with white linen for the meeting. Besides confirming that the gang is still operational, the meeting proved that the Perrones still have one of their main assets: the ability to infiltrate state institutions. And this time, according to Perla and TLS, they have infiltrated the intelligence structure that were set up to serve the Salvadoran state.

*Translated and reprinted with permission from Héctor Silva Ávalos, a former Salvadoran diplomat and journalist, who is currently a research fellow at American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS). See his blog, and read the original Spanish post.

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