MS-13: a ruthless Latino gang that preys on its own





Brentwood (United States) (AFP) - The ultra-violent Latino street gang MS-13, which President Trump vowed to wipe out in a speech in suburban New York on Friday, is estimated to have some 10,000 members in the United States.

And it boasts a very unusual criminal philosophy.

Here are a few key points on MS-13:

- How is MS-13 structured? -

Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, works as an umbrella grouping of units known in Spanish as "clicas," some of which are larger and more violent than others.

Each of these units is loyal to the broader gang but has its own leader and functions differently, says Hector Silva of Insight Crime, a Washington-based center that studies organized crime in Latin America.

- Who are the members? -

Most are young men that trace their heritage to El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala, and among the members there are as many immigrants as there are US citizens. Many were born in the United States.

Police on Long Island, where gang-ridden Brentwood is located, say many minors who arrived on their own from Central America and without residency papers have been recruited by the gang, many times through death threats.

They say this happened even in the case of a boy who was just 10. The average age of gang members arrested in Suffolk County, which includes Brentwood, is 18.

- How was the gang created? -

MS-13 originated in the streets of Los Angeles in the 1980s and was made up of Salvadorans, many of them former soldiers who fought in their country's 1980-1992 civil war.

It initially emerged as a way for Salvadorans to defend themselves from other gangs. Then it took in people from other Central American countries.

In the 1990s and 2000s, many members were deported to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where the gang became immensely powerful.

The so-called Northern Triangle of Central America thus became one of the world's most dangerous regions even though it was not at war.

- Why is it so violent? -

MS-13 generally uses machetes and baseball bats to kill people, leaving their bodies horribly disfigured. It seeks respect and control of territory. Any perceived slight can turn out to be deadly.

"The civil war roots are in the gang DNA. It is not about money. It's about territory. They want to control people," said Joseph Kolb, a fellow at the Center for Migration Studies, based in New York.

"We are dealing with a totally different criminal philosophy," said Kolb.

Whereas the Italian mafia's violence, for instance, was generally carried out in the name of making money, said Kolb, MS-13 is another thing altogether.

"The depravity of these individuals is something we haven't seen on this scale in this country in a very long time," he said. "Here, it's a display of bodies, machetes."

Samuel Logan, author of a 2009 book on MS-13, put it this way: "It's a brand that creates fear and they use fear as a weapon."

Silva said the gang thrives on being more violent than its rivals. Members used to be known for garish, startling tattoos all over their body. But for the past five or six years, body art have waned among members in the United States.

- Where does the money come from? -

MS-13 members often have jobs, such as working in restaurant kitchens, said Kolb. They also make money as small-time street dealers of pot or cocaine, but the gang is not a drug trafficking organization per se.

In some cities, it also finances itself through prostitution and smuggling or extorting migrants. In Central America, the gang receives remittances from associates in the United States and also makes money through extortion.

But the gang is not sophisticated enough to launder money through the financial system, nor does it have the logistical capacity to detonate bombs, said Silva.

- Who do its victims tend to be? -

Almost all of the gang's victims come from the local Hispanic community where it resides, and they are often unauthorized immigrants.

Gang units tend to arise in middle-class or lower middle class neighborhoods that are next to richer districts.

Such is the case on New York's Long Island, or in the Washington suburbs in Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland.

"MS-13 is a parasitic organization that feeds off its own people," said Silva.

COMMENTS

More Related News

Indonesia demands answers after military chief denied U.S. entry
Indonesia demands answers after military chief denied U.S. entry

By Agustinus Beo Da Costa JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia intends to send a diplomatic note to the U.S. secretary of state and summon Washington's deputy ambassador in Jakarta to explain why the head of its military was denied entry to the United States, Indonesian officials said on Sunday. Armed Forces Commander General Gatot Nurmantyo was about to board a flight on Saturday when the airline informed him that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection had denied him entry, military spokesman Wuryanto told a news conference in Jakarta.

Former presidents take stage at hurricane benefit concert
Former presidents take stage at hurricane benefit concert

All five of America's living former presidents took the stage Saturday at a benefit concert in Texas to raise money for victims of the hurricane-ravaged southern United States and Caribbean. Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter appeared together onstage at Texas A&M , praising Americans for their willingness to help fellow citizens and urging them to do more.

A Blueprint for Minimizing Iran's Influence in the Middle East
A Blueprint for Minimizing Iran's Influence in the Middle East

America needs a better strategy for containing and checking Iran, and that strategy is needed now. President Donald Trump would be making a serious mistake were he to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action-the 2015 nuclear deal between various world powers and Iran-in coming months. This action, which Trump has threatened if Congress does not act soon to toughen our overall Iran policy, would be a much more serious blow to American interests and to U.S. global leadership than Trump's previous treaty-related decisions.

Ramping up rhetoric, Turkey
Ramping up rhetoric, Turkey's Erdogan chastises U.S. over democracy
  • World
  • 2017-10-21 16:23:22Z

By Dirimcan Barut and Tulay Karadeniz ISTANBUL/ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan showed no retreat from a diplomatic row with the United States on Saturday, castigating Washington for what he said an "undemocratic" indictment against his security detail. Both Ankara and

How North Korea Could Start the Unthinkable: War Between America and China
How North Korea Could Start the Unthinkable: War Between America and China

War on the Korean Peninsula is almost too horrible to contemplate. The last time that the United States fought North Korea, the People's Republic of China intervened with destructive effect. While both China and the United States have worked hard to prevent a recurrence of this catastrophe, the two great powers remain at odds over the fate of North Korea, a disagreement that might yet lead to war.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Latin America

facebook
Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.