Photo: El Salvador
At least 24 bodies have been found at a clandestine burial ground in El Salvador, where investigators suspect there may be 20 more bodies, all believed to be victims of street gangs, officials said.
“Eight work shifts have turned up 14 graves containing the remains of 19 people,” Attorney General’s Office organized crime unit chief Rodolfo Delgado said early in the day, although five additional bodies reportedly were discovered later on.
“The bodies were dismembered and, in some cases, incomplete,” Delgado said.
The work will continue at the site on the El Limon ranch in Colon, a city 19 kilometers (about 12 miles) west of San Salvador, Delgado said.
Investigators began digging on the property on Nov. 19 and made the “first discoveries” three days later, Delgado said.
Three minors are among the victims found at the site.
Investigators have determined that the ranch “is utilized by the Pandilla 18, which has revolutionary tendencies ... to get rid of bodies,” likely including those of rival Mara Salvatrucha gang members, Delgado said.
El Salvador’s largest gangs declared a truce in March 2012, with the criminal organizations agreeing to not kill each other.
Mara Salvatrucha is a criminal organization that evolved on the streets of Los Angeles during the 1980s, with most of its members young Salvadorans whose parents fled their nation’s erstwhile civil war for the United States.
Because many of the gang members were born in El Salvador, they were subject to deportation when rounded up during immigration crackdowns in California in the 1990s.
Sent “home” to a land they barely knew, they formed gangs that spread throughout El Salvador and to neighboring countries in Central America, where membership is now counted in the tens - or even hundreds - of thousands, and gang members are engaged in murder, drug dealing, kidnapping and people smuggling.
In addition to those activities, gang members are blamed throughout Central America for a spike in rapes and robberies, and for running protection rackets to extort “taxes” from bus companies and owners of small businesses.