Read Steve Dudley’s report at In Sight Crime, Barrio 18 in El Salvador: A View from the Inside
Barrio 18 is one of the two largest gangs in El Salvador. The other, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13), is thought to be slightly larger in membership than the Barrio 18. The Barrio 18 is known as the more violent and less sophisticated of the two.
Barrio 18 Gang Hierarchy
- “Palabreros” in the prison system: coordinate all criminal activities. One palabrero keeps a notebook that keeps track of all finances, homicides, drugs, and weapons.
- “Palabreros” outside the prison system, aka, “en la libre.”
- Leaders of the “canchas.” A cancha is a territorial division that isn’t necessarily based on municipal delineations. Each cancha has several “tribus,” or tribes.
- Leaders of the “tribus.” There are thought to be 28 Barrio 18 “tribus” in El Salvador, according to one study. Each tribu leader may be responsible for dozens and perhaps hundreds of members. In rival gang theMS13, these are known as “clicas,” and there are thought to be far more — an estimated 246.
- Collaborators: those who are not quite or never will be gang members. They help the gang with small jobs, like gathering intelligence, and moving or holding illicit goods.