1. El Salvador $0.058 Billion ($58 Million)

  2. Black Market Crime in El Salvador

El Salvador Security Threats

Data and information about security threats from El Salvador’s black market. Intelligence and security information collected from government agencies, news articles and other public data sources.

In court testimony, a extortionist working in a Guatemalan prison explained the process of how he joined an extortion network that was operating within the Guatemalan criminal justice system.

During his testimony, the extortionist stated that on a bad week, he would make at least $6,000,and was able to get a single victim to pay $12,000.

The network of 21 prisoners would call individuals, families and businesses in Guatemala and neighboring El Salvador. The victims would then pay the money to outside members who would deposit the funds into the network’s bank accounts.

Other extortion gangs operating from prison were reportedly demanding up to $500,000 from businesses in El Salvador.

(Under the table jobs and other criminal profits.)

Source:  Marguerite Cawley, “Guatemala Prisoner Details Operations of Extortion Ring,” Insight Crime, August14, 2013.

A study conducted by the World Bank found that the economic costs to the Central America region due to organized crime violence is $6.5 Billion per year. The costs associated with the violence decreases the region’s GDP by 7.7 percent.

The impact of organized crime and drug trafficking violence on the countries GDP is as follows:

El Salvador: 10.8 percent of GDP worth $2 Billion.

Nicaragua: 10 percent of GDP worth $529 Million.

Honduras: 9.6 percent of GDP worth $885 Million.

Guatemala: 7.7 percent of GDP worth $2.2 Billion.

Costa Rica: 3.6 percent of GDP worth $791 Million.

There are 41 homicides for every 100,000 residents in Central America. 24 percent of the world’s marijuana smokers and 45 percent of the world’s cocaine users resides in Central America.

(What is racketeering?Find examples here.)

Source:  Sergio Ramos, “Central America: Organized crime costs Central America billions,” Infosurhoy, August 5, 2013.

A report released by the Collective Security Analysis for Democracy stated that there were 2.8 million unregistered firearms in Central America, and an additional 15 million unregistered guns in Mexico.

According to the study, the majority of these guns are used by organized crime gangs and drug trafficking cartels to carry out their illicit activities.

The Central America Region has the world’s highest gun-homicide rate, with 41 people being killed by guns per 10,000 people.

According to statistics released by criminal justice programs, Honduras has a gun-homicide rate of 85.5 people per 10,000, followed by El Salvador with 69.2 homicides, Guatemala with 38.5, Mexico with 22.7, Panama with 18, and Costa Rica with 11.3 gun-related homicides.

The World Health Organization states that 5 homicides per 10,000 is considered normal, with over 10 homicides per 10,000 being an “epidemic”.

The unregistered guns in the region comes from four main sources. The first source is through straw buyers who purchase firearms on behalf of the drug cartels. The second source is by purchasing guns from corrupt military soldiers in Guatemala and Honduras. The third source is finding left over supplies from the civil wars that took place in Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1980s. And the last source of unregistered firearms is through the crafting of home-made weapons known as chimbas. The guns are handcrafted and uses a welded pipe and can fire a single shotgun cartridge.

(Prices of Ak-47s and other firearms on the black market.)

Source:  Sergio Ramos, “Weapons trafficking increases in Central America, Mexico,” Infosurhoy, May 30, 2013.

More arms trafficking data.


Criminal justice agencies on the US-Mexico border have seen arrests for human smuggling in the Rio Grande Valley increase by 65 percent as more people attempt to enter the US. In March 2013, US Border Patrol agents arrested 16,000 people who were attempting to enter the country.

Between October 2012 to March 2013, authorities found around 70 bodies that were buried in the valley, over twice the amount of dead bodies found in the previous time frame the year before.

In comparison to the increase of arrest at the Rio Grande Valley, arrests of migrants at the Tuscon, Arizona area decreased by 3 percent last year.

The migrants attempting to enter the United States are not simply from Mexico. Human smuggling groups are sending people  originating from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

There were 94,532 arrests made by the US Border Patrol in 2012 of migrants who were not from Mexico. Nearly half of these non-Mexican migrants were arrested in the Rio Grande Valley.

Source:  Zac Fine, “Crossing the Rio Grande… with the help of a U.S. immigration officer as force targets upsurge in Mexicans trying to get over border,” Daily Mail, May 21, 2013.

Federal authorities in the United States estimates that street gang Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, has at least 30,000 members in its organization. The members are spread out across the Americas region, with members known to be in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

In the United States, there are at least 8,000 members operating in the country. They have been identified in over 40 countries and in Washington, DC, and are primarily involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking and murder. Between 2006 and 2012, Immigration and Customs Enforcement  arrested over 4,000 MS-13 members.

The gang members are recognized for their extensive tattoos.

Source:  Samuel Rubenfeld, “Treasury Labels MS-13 Transnational Criminal Organization,” Wall Street Journal, Corruption Currents Blog, October 11, 2012.

In 2011, there were 50 cases of kidnappings reported in El Salvador, according to law enforcement officials. Of these cases, 20 were identified as kidnappings with the remaining cases classified as extortion attempts involving ransom.

In 2010, there were 45 cases of kidnapping, with 14 cases where the victim was murdered.

Source: Jeanna Cullinan, “Kidnappings Down 50% in El Salvador,” InSight, November 28, 2011.

Drug cartel Los Zetas was charging migrants between $7,000 to $10,000 per person to be smuggled from Central American countries through Mexico and into the United States.

The drug trafficking cartel diversified into human smuggling and had recruiters in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to transport people along supply routes towards the U.S. border.

Source: Tim Johnson, “Violent Mexican drug gang, Zetas, taking control of migrant smuggling,” Miami Herald, August 12, 2011.

In El Salvador, security officials state that drug violence caused the homicide rate increased by 37 percent in 2009 as there were 71 murders for every 100,000 residents. Other Central America countries had high homicide rates as well, with Honduras having 67 per 100,000, and Guatemala having 52 murders per 100,000 residents.

By comparison, Mexico has 14 murders per 100,000 and the United States has 5.4 per 100,000 residents.

The high level of deaths in Central America is reported to be due to the increase in cocaine smuggling routes throughout the country. Cocaine seizures by security personnel in the region quadrupled from 2004 and 2007.

(Additional cocaine facts.)

Source: Nick Miroff and William Booth, “Mexican drug cartels bring violence with them in move to Central America,” Washington Post, July 27, 2010.