What Is the MS 13 Gang?

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A Google search for “MS 13” would turn-up over 100,000 results, including images, videos and various articles written from neutral to biased point of views. The purpose of this article is to provide historical and factual evidence about the Mara Salvatrucha 13 gang.To answer the question of what is the MS-13 gang we must first look at where and how it originated. The question of how it originated is difficult to answer, but by looking at historical facts one can draw his/her own conclusions.The Relationship Between United States and El Salvador:The United States developed an interest in Central-American countries during the Cold-War era and that interest grew stronger as the war on drugs became prevalent in the 1980’s. In a Time Magazine article titled, Supply Line for a Junta, written on Mar 16, 1981, the un-named author stated that in 1980 the Carter Administration had sent 19 American noncommissioned officers to train Salvadoran troops in anti-guerrilla warfare. In 1981, the Regan administration would continue assisting Salvadoran troops with training and provide about $25 million in new equipment for El Salvador, including navy ships, helicopters, other vehicles and small arms. For more information please visit Time Magazine online (Supply Line for a Junta. (1981, March 16). The Roots of Mara-Salvatrucha 13:There is disagreement as to where MS-13 gang originated, some believe it’s roots are in El Salvador, but one of the early members, Alex Sanchez, states that the gang actually started in the 1980’s in the metropolitan area of Los Angeles, California, as a group of “stoners” and heavy-metal music enthusiasts who were recent arrivals from El Salvador (See the National Geographic show Explorer, which premiered February 12, 2006 and the reporter was Lisa Ling, episode title: World’s Most Dangerous Gang). In the 1980’s as civil war erupted in El Salvador an estimated 1 million Salvadoran fled to the United States. A large number of these recent Salvadoran arrivals settled in the metropolitan area of Los Angeles, which was a low-income community already plagued with gangs and crime. The already existing Mexican-American population who inhabited that area were not particularly welcoming of the new group, this included the established Mexican-American gangs. The immigrant Salvadoran youth were marginalized by these local gangs.A Small Group of Stoners Turns to an International Gang:In response to victimization suffered by the Salvadorian youth they formed a group who at first were just “stoners,” but later developed into a very dangerous gang calling themselves Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. Mara is a Spanish or Central-American slang word meaning gang. The meaning of Salvatrucha is unknown, but it likely means Salvadorans on alert since the root word is Salva and the preceding “trucha” means to be alert. The number 13 represents the letter M and is a number used by many gangs who are linked to the California prison-gang, the Mexican Mafia.Today more than 100,000 members can be found throughout 33 states in America and more than 40,000 in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and even Canada. The FBI believes that members of MS-13 are involved in drug-trafficking and sales, extortion, kidnapping, gun-trafficking and sales, racketeering, robbery, rape, murder and many other crimes. The sophistication of violence made MS-13 a feared gang and it earned special attention from various law enforcement agencies. Some of the members of MS-13 were found to be ex-military and many had extensive military training in El Salvador and in the School of the Americas (U.S. led military training camp developed in the 1970’s).After committing crimes gang-members are usually deported back to their country of birth. As MS-13 members were sent back to countries with weak political and police infrastructures they found themselves lost and unwanted. They landed on an airplane with no luggage and only with the clothes on their back. Some of the deportees no longer had family members in their home countries and they found their second family with the gangs strong presence. The deportees’ shared one thing in common, tattoos, lack of education and violent pasts. They arrived without roots in an estranged country that was quite different from the American inner-city neighborhoods were they learned one thing, gang culture.The United States has adopted a default policy on deporting immigrants who commit crimes. Some believe that this policy back-fired because deporting these criminal gang-members helped the gangs, such as MS-13, spread its power to poor and weak countries who had (i) few resources and (ii) a lack of knowledge to handle a sophisticated crime organization. Youth in poor Salvadoran neighborhoods admired the American deportees and this admiration along with the weak government infrastructure of El Salvador helped the gang recruit with ease and thus spreading its power.Conclusion:Presently, MS-13 is still considered one of the most feared gangs in the United States and in Central-America. However, in Central-America the governments have adopted severe campaigns in an attempt to counter-attack the gangs. The police arrest people merely on suspicion of gang involvement and they rely on a person’s presence and content of tattoos. There are death squads who execute known gang-members, but the governments of these countries deny any official involvement.

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