El Salvador’s government has reportedly warned that the MS13 and Barrio 18 are planning to unite and create a super gang, but these fears are likely unfounded.
Authorities in El Salvador are on alert for the potential unification of the MS13 and Barrio 18 street gangs, reported El Universal. The unified gang structure would reportedly be dubbed “Mara 503,” after El Salvador’s international calling code.
Eugenio Chicas, the Communications Secretary for President Sanchez Ceren, identified former guerrilla leader Raul Mijango and newspaper columnist Paolo Lüers as the suspected intellectual authors of the unification scheme, reported Diario1. Chicas indicated that the Attorney General’s Office would be investigating any possible connection.
Mijango, the chief mediator of El Salvador’s gang truce signed in early 2012, has denied involvement in designing a unification strategy, but has confirmed that he believes Barrio 18 and MS 13 leaders are considering a merger.
Central American police officials told El Universal they fear Barrio 18 and MS13 members in Honduras and Guatemala may emulate their Salvadoran counterparts and create united gangs in their respective countries as well.
InSight Crime Analyis
The exact basis for these new fears of a unified super gang is unclear, and there is little existing evidence to suggest this development is likely. Animosities between the Barrio 18 and MS13 stretch back decades, and it is difficult to envision them putting aside those differences to suddenly create a single criminal outfit.
What’s more, this is not the first questionable report of the Barrio 18 and MS13 working closely together. In April, police intelligence sources reportedly stated the gangs were planning a coordinated strike against the government. However, when contacted by InSight Crime, a high-level police official refuted these claims, and said an alliance between the Barrio 18 and MS13 was impossible.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of El Salvador’s Gang Truce
The warnings of a super gang should also be placed within the context of escalating tensions between the government and the street gangs. After a gang-enforced bus strike paralyzed the country’s capital city for days and left at least seven transport operators dead, prosecutors announced they will pursue terrorism charges against the suspects and issued arrest warrants for hundreds of suspected gang members.