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,…