El Salvador’s Army Deploys Armored Vehicles in Fight against Violent Gangs

El Salvador’s Army Deploys Armored Vehicles in Fight against Violent Gangs

By Dialogo
July 24, 2015

I hope they get going on this because it's tough Good day. How shameful, our legislators fighting like any street thug Lets get all the gang members out of the country. Let's see if there's even 1 nation that wants to be screwed up the way El Salvador is. Relatives of gang members enough already. Let's get started and get our relatives out. Gang bangers... Polo. I want to know about the seismic activity that has been seen in the municipality of Alegría This kind of person can only be eradicated with the death penalty. I am really sorry for my brother who's involved in this but every action has a consequence Enough already, gentlemen of the Assembly. You need to reform these laws to get rid of these gang members once and for all. We are tired. They use extortion as they please and against whomever they please, and no one does anything that you would expect. The country is lost, this has no way to be fixed and it's going to get worse. This is because the criminals are inside the community itself and that makes it very hard to get rid of them. Juliany came from the USA and just came to take money away and when he saw the guys he was going into the Assembly with, it's better he left before they could hurt him. GREAT SECURITY

El Salvador’s Army is significantly increasing its use of armored vehicles to confront violent street gangs like the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 (M-18) in several of the country's cities.

Army Troops are using M1151 Enhanced Armament Carriers, upgraded versions of the HMMWVS (Humvees), M1165 Control MRC Radio Trucks, modified pick-up trucks and locally made armored vehicles like the VCTA1 and VCTA2 to provide cover and support during urban operations.

“We’ve adapted our combat methods to the missions we’ve been assigned in the conflict,” Colonel Lucio Edilberto Moz Linares, Chief of the VIII Group of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of El Salvador’s Armed Forces, said on July 1 at the 4th Annual Latin America Armored Vehicles Conference in Bogotá, Colombia.

A history of using armored vehicles

The Salvadoran Military has been using armored vehicles for more than four decades, starting in 1969, when the country’s Cavalry acquired a few American M3 Stuart light tanks designed for conventional warfare. And by the early 1980s, private Salvadoran companies built their first APCs and light tanks, which the Army used in the country's Civil War.

In 1985, the Cashuat was followed by 20 Astroboys, light armored vehicles built using Ford F-250s. They were important in the so-called “Final Offensive” of the Civil War, which lasted from 1979-1992. From 1992 until the mid-2000s, armored vehicles weren't used nearly as much, largely because the Civil War was over and few internal threats required their presence, Colonel Moz Linares said.

But that began to change by the 2000s, when Salvadoran security forces confronted growing violence by the MS-13 and Barrio 18 after both formed alliances with Mexican cartels to transport drugs through El Salvador.

Consequently, in late 2009, the United States donated an initial batch of 18 Humvees, which the Salvadoran Military incorporated into its Cavalry fleet. The U.S. followed with several donations during next five years – ultimately providing about 50 M1151s and M1165s, along with 25 M1025 Armament Carrier Humvees.

Specialized Army unit FER repels gang attack

In April, the Armed Forces incorporated many of the Humvees into the recently created Special Reaction Forces (Fuerzas Especiales de Reacción, FER for its Spanish initials), a strategic Army unit of 600 Troops divided into three Battalions.

Their primary task is to combat gangs and criminal organizations while supporting local police and other Soldiers. Since its inception, FER Soldiers have repelled an M-18 attack in Zacatecoluca in the department of La Paz; combated gangs who had attacked police in Jucuapa in the department of Usulután; and conducted security patrols in cities nationwide.

“The Humvees offer us versatility,” Colonel Moz Linares said. “They are great support for public security units in our fight against the maras.”

In addition to the Humvees, the Army has benefited from using the VCTA1 and VCTA2, two locally made armored vehicles with 20mm cannons. Presented in 2011, these armored vehicles were produced using Dodge Ram chassis. Since their introduction, they have been involved in most urban operations against gangs, as they can withstand high-caliber weapons, grenades and other explosives, according to Colonel Moz Linares.

“We want to keep improving our fleet by making low-cost investments in the conditions of the vehicles that we have produced, and in the fleet of Humvees that we already have,” he said.