Small Wars Journal

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 23: El Salvadoran Gangs (Maras) Enforce Domestic Quarantine / Stay at Home Orders (Cuarentena domiciliar)

Tue, 05/05/2020 - 5:10pm

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 23:  El Salvadoran Gangs (Maras) Enforce Domestic Quarantine / Stay at Home Orders (Cuarentena domiciliar) 

John P. Sullivan, Robert J. Bunker and Juan Ricardo Gómez Hecht

Salvadoran maras (gangs) have adapted to the COVID-19 outbreak by enforcing social control in the form of domestic quarantine (cuarentena domiciliar), curfews, and social distancing.  The major maras, i.e. MS-13, and the Sureños and Revolucionarios factions of Barrio 18 (Eighteenth Street), have communicated this ‘public health’ dictate throughout the territories they control. In addition to enforcing domestic ‘quarantine,’ the Barrio 18 factions have suspended collecting ‘street taxes’ (extortion payments) while MS-13 continues to collect ‘renta’ (rent).

Key Information: Kevin Sieff, Susannah George, and Kareem Fahim, “Now joining the fight against coronavirus: The world’s armed rebels, drug cartels and gangs.” Washington Post. 14 April 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/coronavirus-taliban-ms-13-drug-cartels-gangs/2020/04/13/83aa07ac-79c2-11ea-a311-adb1344719a9_story.html:

Last month, as the Salvadoran government was enforcing one of Latin America’s earliest and most stringent lockdowns, leaders of MS-13 decided that they would institute their own curfew. It was a rare overlap of policy between the gang and the government, which have fought each other for years.

But it also reflected a reality in much of El Salvador: The police have limited access in neighborhoods under criminal control, and in those places, only a gang-enforced curfew would be observed.

Key Information: Kate Linthicum, Molly O’Toole, and Alexander Renderos, “In El Salvador, gangs are enforcing the coronavirus lockdown with baseball bats.” Los Angeles Times. 7 April 2020, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-04-07/el-salvador-coronavirus-homicides-bukele:

The street gangs that have long terrorized El Salvador have now turned their attention from extortion and killing to a more pressing matter: enforcing social distancing restrictions, often with threats and baseball bats…

In many parts of the country, the gangs are more effective than government authorities, with tactics that include circulating recordings on messaging applications threatening people who break the rules…

The gangs have also produced videos showing masked members hitting people for not adhering to the quarantine.

Key Information: Carlos Martínez, Óscar Martínez, and Efren Lemus, “Pandillas amenazan a quien incumpla la cuarentena.” El Faro. 18 April 2020, https://elfaro.net/es/202003/el_salvador/24211/Pandillas-amenazan-a-quien-incumpla-la-cuarentena.htm:

Representantes de las tres pandillas confirmaron a El Faro que este 30 de marzo decidieron amenazar a los habitantes que incumplan la cuarentena nacional. La extorsión impuesta por las pandillas también ha sido modificada por la crisis del coronavirus. En zonas concretas, dicen, han perdonado el cobro criminal a algunos vendedores informales. El otras zonas, simplemente no han podido recogerlo debido a la presencia masiva de fuerzas del Estado en las calles. 

El Faro habló con líderes nacionales de la MS-13, de la facción Sureños del Barrio 18 y dos pandilleros de la facción Revolucionarios, así como con transportistas, vendedores informales y un comisionado policial y obtuvo mensajes de voz enviados por las diferentes pandillas a sus estructuras en los territorios que controlan. En esos mensajes, las pandillas amenazan a cualquier vecino que circule en la calle por una razón distinta a ir a comprar alimentos a “vérselas directamente con nosotros”.[1]

Key Information: “Matones de la salud: En El Salvador, las pandillas dejaron de matarse y ahora vigilan el cumplimiento de la cuarentena.” Clarín Internacional. 9 April 2020, https://www.clarin.com/internacional/salvador-pandillas-dejaron-matarse-ahora-vigilan-cumplimiento-cuarentena_0_gmonzeZOr.html:

Lo que impulsa el declive no es una tregua entre pandillas o una nueva estrategia policial, sino una cuarentena nacional de semanas para frenar la propagación del coronavirus​.

Las pandillas callejeras que durante mucho tiempo han aterrorizado a El Salvador, ahora desviaron su atención de la extorsión y los asesinatos a un asunto más apremiante: imponer restricciones de distanciamiento social, a menudo mediante amenazas y violencia.[2]

Key Information: Marcos Alemán (AP), “El Salvador combate el coronavirus y se reduce la violencia.” San Diego Union-Tribune en Español. 1 April 2020, https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/en-espanol/noticias/story/2020-04-01/el-salvador-combate-el-coronavirus-y-se-reduce-la-violencia:

Desde el martes circularon audios de supuestos pandilleros de la Mara Salvatrucha en los que amenazan con represalias a las personas que no acaten las órdenes del gobierno de mantenerse en cuarentena familiar.

Luego aparecieron dos videos en los que se observa cuando supuestos pandilleros a los que no se les ve los rostros, armados con bates de beisbol, golpean en las piernas y los glúteos a personas que al parecer no han acatado la orden de no salir de sus casas.[3]

Key Information: “Circulan supuestos audios de pandilleros que piden acatar la cuarentena.” elsalvador.com. 31 March 2020, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/coronavirus-pandillas-ms-amenaza-cuarentena/701446/2020/:

En un audio que circulan en redes, dicen que implantan sus propias reglas para castigar a quienes irrespeten la cuarentena impuesta por el Gobierno. Si ven a alguien sin mascarilla le llamarán la atención. Si desobedece, “tomarán otras medidas”.

Desde el lunes al final de la tarde, diversos audios o mensajes de texto comenzaron a circular en cadenas de WhatsApp, en las que, presuntamente, pandilleros advierten que como al Gobierno se le ha salido de control las medidas para contener el COVID-19, ellos vigilarán que tales medidas sean cumplidas en los territorios donde ellos tienen pleno dominio territorial.[4]

Third Generation Gang Analysis

The COVID-19 outbreak has profound national and biosecurity implications.  In addition to significant health consequences (morbidity and mortality) and social control implications regarding quarantine and social distancing, the coronavirus pandemic has altered the human terrain and operating space for organized crime, mafias, and gangs.  In the preceding Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note (No. 22), Sullivan, Arimatéia da Cruz, and Bunker examined the COVID-19 curfew situation in Rio’s favelas.[5]  In this note, the analysis is expanded to look at the situation in El Salvador.  Maras are a significant force in El Salvador’s criminal and political landscape.[6]  These maras(sophisticated, third generation gangs) dominate local pandillas (smaller, less-sophisticated gangs) and challenge the state monopoly on force and political power.  The largest maras are Mara Salvatrucha (known as MS-13) and Barrio 18 (Eighteenth Street).  Both are transnational in nature and alter the nature of sovereignty and governance in a process of criminal insurgency.[7]

Maras like MS-13 are active in about 94% of El Salvador’s municipalities, forming ‘other governed spaces’ or ‘criminal enclaves’ known as ‘zonas rojas’ (red zones) where the gangs exert de factco territorial and social control.[8]  In the current global health crisis, the maras have become players in the provision of public health, social control, and in some cases humanitarian aid.  In all of these cases, the provision of social goods is opportunistic, supporting the gangs’ needs.  In that sense, the active engagement of maras, gangs, mafias, and criminal cartels is essentially ‘the utilitarian provision of social goods’ and often characterized as ‘social banditry.’[9]

Gang Beating

Gang beating of a local individual (On buttocks with a bat repeatedly) for a quarantine enforcement violation. Mara posting on social media; Gang colors and context suggest MS-13. Note—the gang member is wearing a protective facemask. [1:13 second phone video at 0:26 second mark]. Source:  “Circula vídeo de presuntos pandilleros que golpean a un hombre por salir a la calle.” elsalvador.com. 1 April 2020, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/cuarentena-pandillas-amenazas-golpiza/701785/2020/.

The pandemic crisis provides a range of opportunities and threats to territorial criminal enterprises.  The opportunity to provide social control in the form of humanitarian aid and advocacy, enforcing curfews, and quarantines, and suspending ‘street taxes,’ and de facto gang truces and co-operation with health initiatives can promote public perceptions of legitimacy and strengthen the gangs’ power.  These moves can also protect gang members from the disease itself, giving the gangs strategic advantage.  This facet is also linked to enlightened self interest as the gangs recognize the need to protect themselves from the corona virus since the mareros fear physicians may favor non-gang members for life saving treatment like scarce ventilators.[10]  In addition, these short-term  factors limit immediate violence, however ,when the quarantine and street tax holiday is lifted, violent competition may return.

PNC Quarantine

Policía Nacional Civil (PNC) and Fuerza Armada maintain quarantine checkpoint in Puerto de la Libertad, El Salvador, 18 April 2020.  Source: Secretaría de Comunicaciones de la Presidencia de la República de El Salvador, https://twitter.com/ComunicacionSV/status/1251605702071799813?s=20.

Essentially, just as criminal enterprises vary in configuration and modus operandi, so does the response of criminal enterprises to humanitarian crises and pandemics.  In El Salvador, we see one example of this variation:  the two largest Barrio 18 factions (Sureños and Revolucionarios) suspended collection of street taxes while MS-13 continued collecting them.[11][12][13] This variation between gangs and regions is related to the network configuration of gangs where local cliques and factions adapt to local conditions.[14]  In short, as Anna Sergi has cautioned: “organised crime is not homogenous.”[15]

Barrio 18 Communication

Barrio 18 Sureños Communication [Mara Social Media. Source: Reposted by @cguanacas. Twitter, 1 April 2020, https://twitter.com/cguanacas/status/1245577337871065094?s=20.[16]

Operationally the involvement of gangs (maras) and criminal cartels in social control, quarantine, and humanitarian aid situations poses challenges to state institutions, especially the police and military.  The potential for police and military action to conflict with gang quarantine enforcement could lead to active hostilities exacerbating existing insecurity.[17]  Indeed, both the police and military are new to the enforcement of such large-scale quarantine and lockdowns.[18]  These challenges can also be balanced by opportunities to engage armed non-state actors (ANSAs) and criminal  armed groups (CAGs) toward acceptance of humanitarian norms including the protection of health workers and facilities.[19]

Sources

Marcos Alemán (AP), “El Salvador combate el coronavirus y se reduce la violencia.” San Diego Union-Tribune en Español. 1 April 2020, https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/en-espanol/noticias/story/2020-04-01/el-salvador-combate-el-coronavirus-y-se-reduce-la-violencia.

“Circulan supuestos audios de pandilleros que piden acatar la cuarentena.” elsalvador.com. 31 March 2020, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/coronavirus-pandillas-ms-amenaza-cuarentena/701446/2020/.

Kate Linthicum, Molly O’Toole, and Alxander Renderos, “In El Salvador, gangs are enforcing the coronavirus lockdown with baseball bats.” Los Angeles Times. 7 April 2020, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-04-07/el-salvador-coronavirus-homicides-bukele.

Carlos Martínez, Óscar Martínez, and Efren Lemus, “Pandillas amenazan a quien incumpla la cuarentena.” El Faro, 18 April 2020, https://elfaro.net/es/202003/el_salvador/24211/Pandillas-amenazan-a-quien-incumpla-la-cuarentena.htm.

“Matones de la salud: En El Salvador, las pandillas dejaron de matarse y ahora vigilan el cumplimiento de la cuarentena.” Clarín Internacional. 9 April 2020, https://www.clarin.com/internacional/salvador-pandillas-dejaron-matarse-ahora-vigilan-cumplimiento-cuarentena_0_gmonzeZOr.html.

Miguel Patrico, “Army and Gangs Enforce Virus Curfew in El Salvador.” Courthouse News Service. 8 April 2020, https://www.courthousenews.com/army-and-gangs-enforce-virus-curfew-in-el-salvador/.

Kevin Sieff, Susannah George, and Kareem Fahim, “Now joining the fight against coronavirus: The world’s armed rebels, drug cartels and gangs.” Washington Post. 14 April 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/coronavirus-taliban-ms-13-drug-cartels-gangs/2020/04/13/83aa07ac-79c2-11ea-a311-adb1344719a9_story.html.

“La ‘extraña’ entrega de víveres de parte de las pandillas a las comunidades controladas por ellos.” Verdad Digital. 11 April 2020, https://verdaddigital.com/la-extrana-entrega-de-viveres-de-parte-de-las-pandillas-a-las-comunidades-controladas-por-ellos/.

End Notes

[1] In English, the excerpted text reads: “Representatives of the three gangs confirmed to El Faro that this March 30 they decided to threaten the inhabitants who do not comply with the national quarantine. The extortion imposed by the gangs has also been modified by the coronavirus crisis. In specific areas, they say, they have forgiven criminal charges against some informal vendors. The other areas simply have not been able to pick it up due to the massive presence of state forces on the streets…“El Faro spoke to national leaders of the MS-13, of the Sureños faction in Barrio 18 and two gang members of the Revolutionary faction, as well as transporters, informal vendors and a police commissioner, and obtained voice messages sent by the different gangs to their structures in the territories they control. In these messages, the gangs threaten any neighbor who circulates on the street for a reason other than going to buy food to ‘deal directly with us’.”

[2] In English, the excerpted text reads: “What drives the decline is not a gang truce or a new police strategy, but a national quarantine of weeks to curb the spread of the coronavirus … Street gangs that have long terrorized El Salvador have now turned their attention from extortion and murder to a more pressing issue: imposing restrictions on social distancing, often through threats and violence.”

[3] In English the excerpted text reads: “Since Tuesday, audios of alleged gang members of the Mara Salvatrucha have circulated in which they threaten retaliation against people who do not comply with government orders to remain in family quarantine…Then two videos appeared in which it is observed when alleged gang members who do not see their faces, armed with baseball bats, beat the legs and buttocks of people who apparently have not complied with the order not to leave their houses.”

[4] In English, the excerpted text reads: “In an audio that circulates in [social] networks, they say that they implement their own rules to punish those who disrespect the quarantine imposed by the Government. If they see someone without a mask, they will catch their attention. If he disobeys, ‘they will take other measures’… From Monday to late afternoon, various audios or text messages began to circulate in WhatsApp networks in which, allegedly, gang members warn that, as the Government has lost control of the measures to contain COVID-19, they will monitor that such measures are complied with in the territories where they have full territorial control’.”

[5] See John P. Sullivan, José de Arimatéia da Cruz and Robert J. Bunker, “Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 22: Rio’s Gangs Impose Curfews in Response to Coronavirus.” Small Wars Journal. 10 April 2020, https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/third-generation-gangs-strategic-note-no-22-rios-gangs-impose-curfews-response-coronavirus.

[6] See “Life Under Gang Rule in El Salvador.” International Crisis Group. 26 November 2018, https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/central-america/el-salvador/life-under-gang-rule-el-salvador.

[7] See Ximena Galvez Lima, “Inked or Not: Maras and Their Participation in El Salvador’s Recent Armed Conflict.” Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies. Vol. 10, Issue 2, 23 November 2019, https://doi.org/10.1163/18781527-01002002; Juan Ricardo Gómez Hecht, “Gangs in El Salvador:  A New Type of Insurgency?” Small Wars Journal. 27 October 2017, https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/gangs-in-el-salvador-a-new-type-of-insurgency; and John P. Sullivan, “From Drug Wars to Criminal Insurgency: Mexican Cartels, Criminal Enclaves and Criminal Insurgency in Mexico and Central America. Implications for Global Security.” Working Paper No9. Paris: Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme. April 2012, https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/FMSH-WP/halshs-00694083.

[8] “Maras como la infame MS-13 o Mara Salvatrucha están activas en torno al 94 por ciento de los 262 municipios de El Salvador. Además de ser una constante amenaza para la seguridad pública, en muchas de las “zonas rojas” estos grupos se han convertido en la autoridad de facto del vecindario, ejerciendo un enorme control sobre la vida cotidiana de los ciudadanos que viven en los territorios con amplia presencia criminal.” “Matones de la salud: En El Salvador, las pandillas dejaron de matarse y ahora vigilan el cumplimiento de la cuarentena.” Clarín Internacional. 9 April 2020, https://www.clarin.com/internacional/salvador-pandillas-dejaron-matarse-ahora-vigilan-cumplimiento-cuarentena_0_gmonzeZOr.html.

[9] See “Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 22: Rio’s Gangs Impose Curfews in Response to Coronavirus,” at Note 5; and John P. Sullivan, “Mexican Cartel Strategic Note No. 15:  Skullduggery or Social Banditry? Cartel Humanitarian Aid.” Small Wars Journal. 25 November 2013, https://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/mexican-cartel-strategic-note-no-15-skullduggery-or-social-banditry-cartel-humanitarian-aid.

[10] Ana María Enciso Noguera, “El coronavirus y las maras salvadoreñas: dos lados de la moneda.” Al Día. 9 April 2020, https://aldianews.com/es/articles/politics/el-coronavirus-y-las-maras-salvadorenas-dos-lados-de-la-moneda/58138.

[11] “El estado de excepción que se decretó hace más de dos semanas en todo el país también ha trastocado su principal fuente de financiamiento: la extorsión. Las dos facciones del Barrio 18 –Sureños y Revolucionarios– han acordado dejar de exigir dinero a buena parte de los comerciantes informales que operan en sus zonas de control, mientras que la Mara Salvatrucha-13 mantiene el cobro ilegal de dinero, conocido como “renta”, a pesar de que fuentes de esa pandilla reconocen que a causa de la cuarentena obligatoria y el cierre de la mayoría de comercios les está siendo muy difícil recogerlo.” Carlos Martínez, Óscar Martínez, and Efren Lemus, “Pandillas amenazan a quien incumpla la cuarentena.” El Faro. 18 April 2020, https://elfaro.net/es/202003/el_salvador/24211/Pandillas-amenazan-a-quien-incumpla-la-cuarentena.htm.

[12] As Benjamin Lessing has observed, criminal governance may aid COVID response by enforcing lockdowns and prohibiting price gouging but it can also undermine these efforts when gangs of milícias (militias) force bars and stores to stay open and pay monthly extortion fees. Lessing gives examples from Brazil’s favelas while in this note we see similar predatory action in MS-13s refusal to suspend street taxes. See Benjamin Lessing,“#CriminalGovernance may aid #COVID response,” 17 April 2020, https://twitter.com/BigBigBLessing/status/1251240300296757250?s=20 and Anita Prado and Guilherme Peixoto, “Milícia obriga reabertura de comércio da Zona Oeste e Região Metropolitana do Rio para manter cobrança de taxas.” O Globo –G1. 17 April 2020, https://g1.globo.com/rj/rio-de-janeiro/noticia/2020/04/17/milicia-obriga-reabertura-do-comercio-para-recolher-taxa-em-comunidades-do-rj.ghtml.

[13] See Maria Alejandra Navarrette , “Coronavirus Affects Extortion Payments in Mexico and Central America.” Insight Crime. 13 April 2020, https://www.insightcrime.org/news/analysis/coronavirus-extortion-mexico-central-america/.

[14] See Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, “Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 13: Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) Command and Control (C2) Geographic Variations.” Small Wars Journal.  29 January 2019,  https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/third-generation-gangs-strategic-note-no-13-mara-salvatrucha-ms-13-command-and-control-c2.

[15] See Anna Sergi, “'Organised crime' is not homogenous.” 6 April 2020, https://twitter.com/SHOC_RUSI/status/1247219704671997954?s=20 and Anna Sergi, “Organised Crime and the Coronavirus-Crisis: A Research Agenda.” RUSI (Royal United Services Institute). 6 April 2020, https://shoc.rusi.org/coronavirusSOCresearchagenda.

[16] In English the excerpted text roughly reads: “Salvadoran people in the present we make it clear that we detach ourselves from any message that has been spread on social networks (videos, audios, writings), in barrios and colonias [neighborhoods] controlled by BARRIO 18 SUREÑOS, to refrain from not going out, on the contrary we humbly ask you to abide by the government regulations for the emergency that the country is going through since their collaboration is of utmost importance for their homes and our families do not go out if it is not necessary. We ask our barrios and colonias [neighborhoods] controlled by BARRIO 18 SUREÑOS to help us to spread this statement where we deny all threats to the Salvadoran people on the contrary we are feeling the pain of the people, we have decided as BARRIO 18 to help in ‘not all but some colonias [neighnorhoods]’ hose  most affected and with low income. Thank you for your understanding. Sincerely... BARRIO 18 SUREÑOS.”

[17] See Anna Applebaum and Briana Mawby, “Gang Violence as Armed Conflict: A New Perspective on El Salvador.” GIWPS Policy Brief. Washington, DC: Georgetown Institute for Women Peace and Security. November 2018, https://giwps.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Gang-Violence-as-Armed-Conflict.pdf.

[18] Kevin Sieff, “Soldiers around the world get a new mission: Enforcing coronavirus lockdown.” Washington Post. 25 March 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/coronavirus-military-enforce-soldiers-armed-forces/2020/03/25/647cbbb6-6d53-11ea-a156-0048b62cdb51_story.html.

[19] This type of humanitarian diplomacy is a difficult but essential component of protecting the populace in areas faced with civil strife and extreme criminal violence bordering on or transcending the threshold of non-international armed conflicts (NIACs).  See Robert Muggah and John P. Sullivan, “The Coming Crime Wars.” Foreign Policy. 21 September 2018, https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/09/21/the-coming-crime-wars/; specifically germane to this pandemic, see Marcos Kotlik and Ezequil Heffes, “COVID-19 Symposium: COVID-19 in Conflict-Affected Areas–Armed Groups as Part of a Global Solution.” Opinio Juris. 4 April 2020, http://opiniojuris.org/2020/04/04/covid-19-symposium-covid-19-in-conflict-affected-areas-armed-groups-as-part-of-a-global-solution/ and “Supporting COVID-19 response through the engagement of armed non-State actors.” Geneva Call. 17 April 2020, https://www.genevacall.org/supporting-covid-19-response-by-the-engagement-of-armed-non-state-actors/.

For Additional Reading

Juan Ricardo Gómez Hecht, "Gangs in El Salvador: A New Type of Insurgency?" Small Wars Journal, 27 October 2017.

 Juan Ricardo Gómez Hecht, “Las Pandillas en El Salvador: ¿Un Nuevo Tipo de Insurgencia? Small Wars Journal, 4 September 2017.

John P. Sullivan, José de Arimatéia da Cruz and Robert J. Bunker, “Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 22: Rio’s Gangs Impose Curfews in Response to Coronavirus.” Small Wars Journal, 10 April 2020.

John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, Eds. Strategic Notes on Third Generation Gangs. A Small Wars Journal-El Centro Anthology.  Bloomington: Xlibris, 2020.

 

 

Categories: El Centro

About the Author(s)

John P. Sullivan was a career police officer. He is an honorably retired lieutenant with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, specializing in emergency operations, transit policing, counterterrorism, and intelligence. He is currently an Instructor in the Safe Communities Institute (SCI) at the Sol Price School of Public Policy - University of Southern California, Senior El Centro Fellow at Small Wars Journal, and Member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Global Observatory of Transnational Criminal Networks.  Sullivan received a lifetime achievement award from the National Fusion Center Association in November 2018 for his contributions to the national network of intelligence fusion centers. He is co-editor of Blood and Concrete: 21st Century Conflict in Urban Centers and Megacities (Xlibris, 2019), Countering Terrorism and WMD: Creating a Global Counter-Terrorism Network (Routledge, 2006) and Global Biosecurity: Threats and Responses (Routledge, 2010), Studies in Gangs and Cartels (Routledge, 2013), and The Rise of The Narcostate (Mafia States) (Xlibris, 2018), and co-author of Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency: A Small Wars Journal-El Centro Anthology (iUniverse, 2011). He completed the CREATE Executive Program in Counter-Terrorism at the University of Southern California and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the College of William and Mary, a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs and Policy Analysis from the New School for Social Research, and a PhD from the Open University of Catalonia (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya). His doctoral thesis was “Mexico’s Drug War: Cartels, Gangs, Sovereignty and the Network State.” His current research focus is the impact of transnational organized crime on sovereignty in Mexico and other countries.

Dr. Robert J. Bunker is an Adjunct Research Professor, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College and Adjunct Faculty, Division of Politics and Economics, Claremont Graduate University. He holds university degrees in political science, government, social science, anthropology-geography, behavioral science, and history and has undertaken hundreds of hours of counterterrorism training. Past professional associations include Distinguished Visiting Professor and Minerva Chair at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College; Futurist in Residence, Training and Development Division, Behavioral Science Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, Quantico, VA; Staff Member (Consultant), Counter-OPFOR Program, National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center-West; and Adjunct Faculty, National Security Studies M.A. Program and Political Science Department, California State University, San Bernardino, CA. Dr. Bunker has hundreds of publications including Studies in Gangs and Cartels, with John Sullivan (Routledge, 2013),  Red Teams and Counterterrorism Training, with Stephen Sloan (University of Oklahoma, 2011), and edited works, including Global Criminal and Sovereign Free Economies and the Demise of the Western Democracies: Dark Renaissance (Routledge, 2014), co-edited with Pamela Ligouri Bunker; Criminal Insurgencies in Mexico and the Americas: The Gangs and Cartels Wage War (Routledge, 2012); Narcos Over the Border: Gangs, Cartels and Mercenaries (Routledge, 2011); Criminal-States and Criminal-Soldiers (Routledge, 2008); Networks, Terrorism and Global Insurgency (Routledge, 2005); and Non-State Threats and Future Wars (Routledge, 2002).

Juan Ricardo Gómez Hecht, works as Professor at the College of Advanced Strategic Studies, the Highest Post Graduate School of El Salvador’s Armed Forces. Previously he served 16 years in the area of ​​public security, holding various important positions within the General Inspectorate of the National Civilian Police of El Salvador. Academically he is a political scientist and holds two master degrees: in Public Administration and Human Rights and Education for Peace (University of El Salvador. Currently he is a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Prof. Gómez Hecht has a teaching experience that spans 19 years at graduate and post graduate level at various El Salvador Universities, National Public Security Academy and most Officer Schools of the Armed Forces. He is an Academic researcher accredited by the Council for Science and Technology of El Salvador and has published works in national and international specialized journals in the United States, Spain, Colombia and Nicaragua. He has also lectured on defense and security issues at the national level and in the United States, Mexico, Morocco, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama.