Security & Strategic Review - April 2023

EL SALVADOR: US indictment sheds more light on negotiations with gangs

On 23 February the US Department of Justice (DoJ) announced the arrest of three of the highest-ranking leaders of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), one of El Salvador’s two main gangs, which was designated as a “significant transnational criminal organisation” by the US in 2012 and as a terrorist organisation by El Salvador’s supreme court in 2015. The announcement made headlines not just due to the rank of those arrested but the accompanying indictment which sheds further light on the protections allegedly offered to gang leaders by President Nayib Bukele’s government, which has been accused on various occasions of negotiating with gangs.

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