In early March of 2016, the bodies of eight electrical company employees and three farmers were found hacked-up and bullet-riddled near a desolate field in El Salvador’s San Juan Opico municipality.
The wanton force involved – the killers used machetes and machine guns – bore all the hallmarks of MS-13, or Mara Salavtrucha, the uber-violent street gang that started in California but has since spread like a plague throughout Central America.
“These two gangs have turned the Central American northern triangle into the area with the highest homicide rate in the world.”
Authorities in El Salvador were quick to fix blame on the gang and President Salvador Sánchez Cerén swiftly implemented a package of “extraordinary measures” to crack down on violent crime.
The only problem was that it wasn’t MS-13 that carried out the massacre. It was a gang known as Barrio 18.
While authorities can be forgiven for mixing up the two – both have members covered in head-to-toe tattoos, are well known for their murderous tactics and originated in some of the same Los Angeles neighborhoods – MS-13 and Barrio 18 are bitter rivals whose ongoing feud is responsible for the deaths of thousands across the U.S., Mexico and Central America.
“These two gangs have turned the Central American northern triangle into the area with the highest homicide rate in the world,” a 2013 Justice…