ms 13

unintended consequences
Mara Salvaturcha or MS-13

In El Salvador, Obama pledges drug-fighting assistance

Strangers, not friends, light up this brain network

Authorities scramble to contain forces unleashed by past American policies.

The civil war in El Salvador displaced a half million people.

Many refugees who fled the American backed civil war against insurgents in El Salvador settled near MacArthur Park, just west of downtown Los Angeles, California.

Many of the children had fought with leftist guerrillas or had been hardened by the bloodletting they witnessed.

These children among the refugees formed a gang in the 1980s called MS-13, which loosely translated means Salvadoran Gang 13.

As the gang grew, immigration officials began a decade long campaign to deport members, including ex-convicts and hardened leaders who helped spread MS-13 across Central America and solidify its structure.

MS-13, an entrepreneurial criminal gang, has been compared to a terrorist organization.

This gang would not have congealed, taken root and grown to encompass so many cities spread throughout Central and North America if the brutal civil war had not been fought in El Salvador.

There is a real possibility that this war would not have been so devastating if the administration of the US government under Ronald Reagan had not supported the ruling oligarches.

The Salvadoran oligarches were complicit in creating the right-wing death squads that murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero, depopulated the Guazapo volcano area through execution and terrorism, instigated the El Mozote massacre and murdered Jesuit priests at the University of Central America.

Murders of Jesuits in El Salvador

US-trained elite troops killed six Jesuits and two women at Central American University in 1989

It is highly unlikely that the wave of refugees and children that settled near MacArthur Park, just west of downtown Los Angeles, California would ever have left El Salvador and been able to form the gang MS-13, a criminal enterprise, had the federal government under the administration of Ronald Reagan not supported the ruling oligarches.

"Two decades ago, it was a civil war, with soldiers, death squads and guerrillas spilling the blood. Now it's gangs (thousands of members originally from Los Angeles), drug-fueled crime, abusive police officers - all the makings of a bloodletting that has terrified the population and contributed in recent elections to the unseating of the party that ruled for 20 years.

In the first three months of 2009, by official government count, an average of nearly 12 people a day were slain.

This in a tiny, densely populated nation of nearly 7 million with a homicide rate roughly five times that of Mexico and 10 times that of the US at this time.

Life is cheap in El Salvador. Throw in drugs and impunity, and a flawed judicial system whereby few if any killings are ever solved, and the death toll will continue to climb. With the lawless atmosphere, ordinary business disputes and personal vendettas are readily solved by physical attack.

Gun shops, which barely existed a decade ago, are common neighborhood features. You can hire someone to kill a rival for $50; for $100 if you want to see the body.

One of El Salvador's leading human rights organizations has analyzed homicides every year since 2004 and concluded that hundreds were committed by rogue police officers, private security guards and people hired to carry out "social cleansing" - the elimination of undesirables through extrajudicial executions." - Tracy Wilkinson 05/12/09

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