The U.S. Department of Justice announced a joint effort with law enforcement officials in Central America in which over 700 members of transnational crime groups have been arrested. Members of the MS-13 and 18th Street gangs made up a large majority of the arrests. Law enforcement agencies from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the United States were involved in the week long round-up termed Operation Regional Shield (ORS).
ORS was founded in 2017 as an initiative led by the DOJ to help quell transnational organized crime syndicates operating in Central and South America. The initiative has led to charges against more than 11,000 gang members since its inception.
Of the 75 people arrested in Honduras, 36 were involved in human trafficking operations throughout Central and North America. Several law enforcement officials were among the arrestees, including a police commissioner, a police deputy inspector, and three law enforcement agents. Charges against them included human smuggling, money laundering and illegal association to commit a crime. The rest were charged with “illicit association, murder and conspiracy to commit murder, extortion and drug trafficking.”
Prosecutors in El Salvador filed criminal charges against 1,152 gang members, of which 572 were captured by the National Civil Police. Charges against those arrested included “terrorism, murder, extortion, kidnapping, vehicle theft, robbery, conspiracy, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, weapons violations, human trafficking and human smuggling.”
Guatamalan authorities executed over 80 arrest warrants, arrested 40 individuals and served warrants to an additional 29 who were already in custody. They seized drugs and firearms, and “filed charges for extortion, illicit association, conspiracy to commit murder, and extortive obstruction. This investigation involves four transportation companies as victims of extortion in the amount of $54,523.”
The charges were announced by U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr and his counterparts in the various participating countries.