El Salvador Military Official ‘Sold Weapons to Gangs’

An officer in El Salvador’s army has been arrested for selling firearms to an alleged gang member, highlighting how the country’s military is fueling a widespread illegal market for weapons.

On October 17, police arrested Mario Alfredo Cristales Alvarado, a high-ranking officer in El Salvador’s Special Brigade of Military Security. The officer had just left his post prior to his arrest, and was carrying a rifle and ammunition with him at the time, reported La Prensa Grafica

Alvarado is accused of selling weapons, including an M-16, six magazines, and 210 bullet cartridges, to a gang member via a middleman, reported La Pagina.

InSight Crime Analysis

Alvarado’s attempt to sell military weaponry to gang members is representative of how corrupt factions of the military remain involved in arms trafficking, thus fueling El Salvador’s recent record-breaking levels of violence.

There have been multiple cases of Salvadoran military officials selling firearms, ammunition, and military gear on the black market. These weapons often end up into the hands of members of El Salvador’s gangs, as well as international criminal organizations.

Nevertheless, successful prosecutions and convictions of military officials for arms trafficking remain rare. One prominent 2014 case ended with military officials being sentenced to community service, after they were accused of stealing grenades from military stockpiles. 

SEE MORE: Coverage of Arms Trafficking

The ongoing availability of firearms has helped to drive up homicides across El Salvador. Police officials reported 907 homicides during August 2015, surpassing levels of violence seen during El Salvador’s civil war, which ended in 1992. Notably, according to testimonials by members of Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and the Barrio 18 Revolutionaries in El Salvador, the gangs say they have more access than ever to firearms, especially assault rifles.

This pattern of military involvement in weapons sales to criminal organizations is not limited to El Salvador. Similar cases have been reported in Peru, Colombia, Uruguay, and other countries throughout Latin America.