Thursday, August 3, 2017

MS-13: one of the world's most brutal street gangs

The latest was a mass murder in April on Long Island, where the bodies of four young men were found mangled in the woods. President Trump tweeted to call the gang "bad". Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed to "devastate" it. Both blamed immigration policy for its rise. But what is MS-13?

The gang began in the barrios of Los Angeles during the 1980s, formed by immigrants who had fled El Salvador. Other members came from Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.

MS stands for Mara Salvatrucha, said to be a combination of Mara, meaning gang, Salva, for Salvador, and trucha, which translates roughly into street smarts. The 13 represents the position of M in the alphabet.

MS-13 is known for recruiting poor teenagers.
MS-13 has a reputation for extreme violence and for killing with machetes. It took root in neighbourhoods dominated by Mexican gangs, and later expanded. According to the FBI, the gang has spread to 46 states.

Joining is said to require being "jumped in" - a vicious 13-second beating - and "getting wet" - carrying out a crime, often a murder, for the gang.
A 2008 FBI threat assessment put the size of MS-13 between 6,000 and 10,000 members in the US, making it one of the largest criminal enterprises in the country. An anti-gang crackdown in the late 1990s saw hundreds of members shipped back to Central American countries. Estimates put the number of members in Central American countries at at least 60,000.