MS13 Feud Spreads to Mexico, but Gang’s Presence Remains Limited

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The killing of a dissident member of El Salvador’s MS13 gang in Mexico City suggests the rift between the gang’s leadership and the splinter group known as MS503 has spread to the Mexican capital, although it is unlikely to lead to the gang establishing a strong presence in the country.

Carlos Humberto Rodíguez Burgos, alias “Shyboy,” was shot dead on March 1, as the taxi he was traveling in got stuck in traffic in Mexico City’s Portales neighborhood.

Though a relatively low-level gang member, Shyboy had emerged as a vocal spokesman for the MS503, a dissident faction of the MS13 that has decried the group’s use of violence in El Salvador.

The MS503 — a reference to El Salvador’s international telephone code — has repeatedly called on the MS13 to limit its use of violence against non-gang members and police, and to abandon the practices of extortion, rape and kidnapping of civilians. The group has also called on the gang to refrain from involving itself in the country’s politics or elections.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

Though the MS503 has not formally separated itself from the MS13, the group has been outspoken about wanting to disrupt the gang’s “historical leadership.”

Shyboy began speaking out online after being released from an 18-year prison sentence in El Salvador’s Zacatecoluca prison in late 2017. However, some MS13 members accused Shyboy of being a police plant, in what they say was an effort by authorities in El Salvador to foment a schism within the gang.

InSight Crime Analysis

The MS13 is currently active in Mexico, and a number of MS13 leaders were known to be operating in the country as recently as late 2017. One MS13 leader was recently arrested in Tijuana for allegedly trying to set up a small international drug trafficking ring in the city. Reports also indicate that the MS13 has established a presence along the migrant routes in southern Mexico.

But the professional hit on Shyboy seemed more likely a direct response to his inflammatory rhetoric against the MS13 leadership. Moreover, it points to the gang’s reach into Mexico City, and suggests that the feud between MS13 and the splinter group has reached Mexican soil.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of MS13

Still, Shyboy’s murder is unlikely to make major waves in Mexico. The MS13 is currently too weak to be a major player in the country’s criminal landscape, which is dominated by powerful cartels, security analyst Jaime López told InSight Crime.

“The MS13 is violent, but in order to expand internationally, you have to be much better organized and institutionalized,” López said. “I don’t think they have that kind of strength right now.”

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