SAN SALVADOR, El Savador (NewsNation Now) — The Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have rounded hundreds of suspected street gang members as part of a U.S.-backed effort known as “Operation Regional Shield.”
The attorney general’s office in El Salvador has taken the lead, reporting that it obtained arrest warrants for 1,152 suspects, of whom 572 had been arrested by Friday.
The week long effort particularly targeted members of the Barrio 18 and MS-13 gangs, which operate in all three countries.
According to the statement from the U.S. Department of Justice released Friday, “all arrestees were charged with human smuggling, money laundering and illegal association to commit a crime.”
The charges were announced by U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr, Attorney General Raul Melara of El Salvador, Attorney General María Consuelo Porras Argueta of Guatemala, and the Attorney General of Honduras, Oscar Fernando Chinchilla, through the Public Ministry’s Press Office.
“The U.S. Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners in Central America are committed to continued collaboration in locating and arresting gang members and associates engaged in transnational crimes,” said U.S. Attorney General Barr in a released statement. “Our countries are made safer by working together to protect national security and to ensure public safety in our neighborhoods.”
The U.S. Department of Justice noted that authorities in El Salvador and Honduras arrested three dozen suspected immigrant traffickers. Those arrested in Honduras immigrant smuggling ring include a police commissioner, a deputy inspector and three other law enforcement agents.
Operation Regional Shield (ORS) began in 2017 and is a Justice Department-led initiative to combat transnational organized crime that brings together gang prosecutors and investigators from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the United States.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.