They are members of a rival gang and now share a jail cell. El Salvador has taken an unprecedented measure in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic: placing members of the transnational gang’s Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, and the two factions of Barrio 18, or 18th Street Gang, together in prisons. The controversial decision has attracted international attention — and heavy criticism.
Since the end of April, in six prisons across the country, “emeeses” and “eighteen men”-as rival members are known in Spanish-have shared crowded spaces. Since the gang phenomenon erupted in the country in the early 1990s, those groups have been deadly rivals.
Noticias Telemundo had exclusive access to the Barrios Jail, San Salvador, 100 miles east of the capital, and talked to rival leaders who had shared a cell for several days. It is the first time thousands of active members sleep simply shoulder to shoulder in the three decades since the first graffiti alluding to the MS-13 and 18 began appearing in El Salvador. The government’s decision to house competing leaders together came in at the end of April following a murder spree.
Government Orders to Incarcerated Gang Members
There were 85 murders, an average of 17 per day, up from two a day, as per the National Police. The government traced the outbreak of violence to MS-13 and said that the orders had come from incarcerated gang members to escalate the crime.
There haven’t been any incidents of gang activity since the gangs were brought together. More than 2,000 inmates were in three assigned areas where they shared overcrowded cells with rival gang members.
Jail Cell Under Surveillance
The inmates coordinated themselves; each cell named one manager per gang. A counterpart of Ávila Gómez is Francisco Arturo Quintero, in a section of the prison sharing by the MS-13 and 18-Sureños.
The comments indicate a full-blown prison truce — in gang slang, it calls running the South — and implements simultaneously in the six active gang-member prisons and in the Zacatecoluca Penal Security Center gang sectors, known as Zacatraz. Throughout California, “running the South” refers to terms put on its gangs, which operate in the southern half of the state, by the Mexican mafia, known as “La Eme” (“The M.”). Today, it’s a general word in El Salvador that denotes nonaggression among MS-13, the two gangs of Barrio 18 and La Mirada Locos 13, although the latter group has little territorial influence.
This is the first time the South, or reconciliation, has been run in the prison system in practice. In the Izalco Phase II Penitentiary Centre, a prison intelligence study dated April 29. It lays out the coexistence arrangements and laws. The data supplied by a gang member basically refers to practical concerns. It is such as the use of toilets and water barrels. But it also stipulates how the outbreaks of violence resolve.
El Salvador Makes Shocking Move
In September 2004, El Salvador made a silly move toward public policy. It assigns one gang to entire prisons because thousands of their members already incarcerate. The law put an end to the massacres inside the prisons. It is between the gangs or gangs, and organized “civilians” gangs [as gang members call non-gang members. Yet it also centralized criminal networks internally, and prisons became the centre of command. It is for cliques and gangs that work in thousands of Salvadoran communities and towns.
In 2016, the first attempts making during the administration of President Salvador Sánchez Cerén to change that. It is certain prisons stop restricting to one or the other faction. But remained segregated inside the institution from one another. There was a major movement of gang members between prisons from July to August 2019. It is just after Nayib Bukele became president and members of the three gangs transfer to prisons. Also, areas within each prison — that had been dominated by a single gang for years.