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,
Many of the children had fought
with leftist guerrillas or had been hardened by the bloodletting they
These children among the refugees formed a gang in the
1980s called MS-13, which loosely
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
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,
Guazapo volcano area through execution and terrorism,
instigated the El Mozote
massacre and murdered Jesuit priests at the University of Central
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.
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
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