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human trafficking in


By Sergio Gonzalez

El Salvador

Extensive history combatting violence within the country combined with recent developments and changes in leadership make El Salvador a prime candidate for study in their efforts to fight human trafficking.




Salvadoran Civil War (1979-1992)


Post-civil war

Los Angeles, California

Barrio 18 // 18th Street Gang

Los Angeles, California

MS-13 // Mara Salvatrucha 13

Widely recognized for his efforts in reforming the city of Nuevo Cuscatlán as mayor.Formerly with the FMLN, his ideas that challenged the current Salvadoran government were too radical, leading him to create a new party (Nuevas Ideas) to run for presidency.He won his presidency in 2019 and has been serving since.

President Nayib Bukele

A new era

The Territorial Control Plan

October 2019

July 2019

June 2019

Phase 3: Modernization

Equip police and military forces with adequate weapons to fight gangs

Phase 2: Opportunity

Invest in the country's youth to keep them away from gang activity

Phase 1: Preparation

Regain government control on regions of the country lost to gangs



November 2022

July 2021

Phase 6 & 7: Unknown

Phase 5: Extraction

Targeting small-scale gang activity in certain communities

Phase 4: "Raid"

Deploy even more police into gang-controlled regions


Political Landscape

TIP Report

MS13Barrio 18

NGO Presence

The long battles fought within the country are currently affecting the ways in which its government approach the issue of Human Trafficking. What are the details?

El Salvador's History & Human Trafficking

TIP report 2022

  • El Salvador was downgraded to the Tier 2 Watch List in the 2022 TIP Report
    • Ever since the inception of the TIP Report, El Salvador has ranked as a Tier 2
  • “The government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period”
  • “The government did not initiate any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of officials allegedly complicit in human trafficking crimes or report progress on investigations from previous years”
  • Reported "inactivity" from El Salvador's anti-trafficking council.
  • "Force, fraud, and coercion as aggravating factors rather than essential elements of the crime."
  • Salvadoran Penal Code - Article 367B
    • 4-8 years imprisonment max
  • Roundabout ways to increase a sentence
  • El Salvador signed the Palermo Protocol in 2002 and ratified it in 2004
  • "Human trafficking in El Salvador has been poorly documented." About 370 cases reported between 2004-2010
  • First anti-trafficking legislation was passed in 2014, but the language differs from that of the UN's suggestions.

Trafficking Legislation/History


  • Care centers within the country specialize in helping young girls that were sex trafficked.
    • No aid is currently available to adults or young boys.
  • Generally, the country is still rebuilding from its recent Civil War and its ongoing battle against violent gangs.
  • Different sources cite varying levels of gang (MS13, Barrio 18) involvement in both transnational trafficking and local trafficking rings.
  • Government screenings at border checks to see if individuals are being trafficked
  • Military and Police personnel undergo training to help people who are being trafficked




  • Amending the 2014 Anti-Trafficking law to resemble UN terminology
  • Implementing protections for adults, boys, and LGBTQ populations
  • Increase reporting to the US
  • Create data management systems for follow-ups on trafficking cases.

TIP Report Recommendation


  • Anon. 2022. “Territorial Control Plan, Phase 5: ‘Extraction.’ Law Enforcement Will Surround Territories in Search of Gang Members.” El Salvador in English. Retrieved May 25, 2023 (https://elsalvadorinenglish.com/2022/11/24/territorial-control-plan-phase-5-extraction-law-enforcement-will-surround-territories-in-search-of-gang-members/).
  • Correa-Cabrera, Guadalupe. 2014. “El Salvador | UTRGV.” Utrgv.edu. Retrieved May 25, 2023 (https://www.utrgv.edu/human-trafficking/blog/central-america/el-salvador/index.htm).
  • Diana Villiers Negroponte. 2013. “MS-13 and Barrio 18 Truce: Can This Be Successfully Replicated in Honduras and Guatemala?” Brookings. Retrieved May 25, 2023 (https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2013/06/05/ms-13-and-barrio-18-truce-can-this-be-successfully-replicated-in-honduras-and-guatemala/).
  • United Nations. 2023. “UNTC.” Un.org. Retrieved May 25, 2023 (https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=ind&mtdsg_no=XVIII-12-a&chapter=18&clang=_en).
  • United States Department of State, 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report - United States of America, July 2022
  • Wikipedia Contributors. 2023. “Salvadoran Civil War.” Wikipedia. Retrieved May 25, 2023 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvadoran_Civil_War).
  • Wikipedia Contributors. 2023. “Human Trafficking in El Salvador.” Wikipedia. Retrieved May 25, 2023 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_trafficking_in_El_Salvador#:~:text=Article%20367B%20of%20the%20Salvadoran,four%20to%20eight%20years%27%20imprisonment).