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Security Brief: SOUTHCOM Week of March 27, 2022

March 27 - 30, 2022 | Issue 01

Stacey Casas, Daniel Ruiz, Jhamil Moya, SOUTHCOM Team

Léopold Maisonny, Editor; Jennifer Loy, Chief of Staff



“Mara Salvatrucha” MS-13 Gang - El Salvador, a society tired of violence [1]



Date: March 27, 2022

Location: El Salvador

Parties involved: Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele; Legislative Assembly of El Salvador; Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13); US Treasury Department

The event: On Sunday, March 27, at the request of President Bukele, the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador approved an exceptional regime decree for a month, after 62 people died on Saturday in an attack by the MS-13 gang. The exceptional regime is an approved state of emergency that will allow the Bukele government to not only suspend certain freedoms and rights but also the power to deploy the military and police in the streets.[2] In December 2021, the US Treasury Department accused the Bukele government of secretly negotiating a truce with gang leaders and imposed sanctions on top Salvadoran officials for their roles in negotiating “a secret truce with gang leadership.”[3]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Salvadorian citizens will likely view the state of exception as a violation of their human rights. During the state of exception, the government will likely conduct arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial executions, and there will likely be disappearances of individuals suspected to be involved in the attack. Confrontations between the military and the gangs will very likely affect the civilian population which will likely be caught in the crossfire. The presence of the military during the state of exception will very likely increase casualties and captures of gang members, likely increasing violence in the short term but likely improving the safety of citizens in the long term.

  • The increased number of detainees in El Salvador will almost certainly create an overload of unprocessed cases in the judicial system. Justice delays due to an excess of legal processes and timely rulings will likely increase. Delay of justice will very likely generate more violence in jails with unconvicted prisoners, especially in cases where rival gang members share cells.

  • With the state of emergency restricting individual freedoms and rights, citizens will likely begin voicing their concerns against the Legislative Assembly’s decision to enact the exception regime. 30 days of restricted freedom in El Salvador will almost certainly gain the attention of human rights defenders, such as Amnesty International, advocating for human rights and social justice for citizens. As more international organizations and foreign governments become aware of the state of emergency passed by the Legislative Assembly, Bukele’s administration will very likely come under the scrutiny of the international community. Additionally, if Bukele fails to reduce gang violence in El Salvador during the 30-day state of emergency, it will very likely strengthen his opponents' political position in the government who voted against the exception regime.


Date: March 28, 2022

Location: Ciudad Bolivar Sector, Bogota, Colombia.

Parties involved: Colombia National Police; Colombian National Police´s Immediate Attention Command (CAI); 33rd Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissidents; Colombian Government

The event: On Monday, March 28, the 33rd Front of the FARC dissidents claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack against a CAI in Bogotá.[4] The attack occurred on Saturday night, March 26, in the sector of Ciudad Bolivar, which left two children dead and 35 citizens wounded.[5]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The terrorist attack at the CAI police station is likely an attempt by FARC dissidents to gain public attention for their cause. By attacking a local police station, this was likely a targeted attack meant to instill fear in the security of citizens. By attacking national and local buildings, those responsible likely want to increase social unrest and reduce public confidence in the government and local law enforcement and their ability to protect the safety of the local population.

  • The attack demonstrates that illegal armed groups are very likely to establish themselves in Bogota, which will likely lead to an increase in the number of attacks against military and police facilities. The presence of illegal armed groups in Bogotá will likely lead to clashes between criminal organizations operating in the city for the control of illicit businesses such as drug trafficking and arms sales. Illegal armed groups such as FARC dissidents will likely seek to avoid detection by law enforcement either through subcontracting or allying with local gangs to help them carry out terrorist attacks and conduct illegal activities. If illegal armed groups become stronger in cities such as Bogotá, law enforcement agencies will very likely have difficulty controlling their illegal activities in the country.

  • The terrorist attack in Bogotá very likely shows flaws in the Colombian intelligence services. If future attacks by terrorist groups such as the FARC dissidents cannot be detected and stopped in time, these illegal armed groups will almost certainly increase in capacity and lethal power over time. The lack of efficiency to stop attacks before they occur will very likely build the cartel´s confidence in being able to perform illicit activities in residential zones and main cities, very likely creating an unprecedented security crisis in Colombia.

________________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)

[1]Sony World Photography Award” by markarinafotos licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

[2] El Salvador declares a state of siege due to the wave of violence of the Mara Salvatrucha, ambito, March 2022, https://www.ambito.com/mundo/el-salvador/declara-el-estado-sitio-la-ola-violencia-la-mara-salvatrucha-n5402516 (translated by Jhamil Moya)

[3] Explosion of Gang Violence Grips El Salvador, Setting Record, The New York Times, March 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/27/world/americas/el-salvador-gang-violence.html

[4] Frente 33 de las Farc se atribuye atentado en Ciudad Bolívar, sur de Bogotá, Blu Radio, March 2022, https://www.bluradio.com/blu360/bogota/frente-33-de-las-farc-se-atribuye-atentado-en-ciudad-bolivar-sur-de-bogota (translated by Daniel Ruiz)

[5] Atentado terrorista en un CAI del sur de Bogotá, Caracol Radio, March 2022, https://caracol.com.co/emisora/2022/03/27/bogota/1648344883_266747.html (translated by Daniel Ruiz)

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