Authorities scramble to contain
forces unleashed by past American policies.
The civil war in El Salvador displaced a half million
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
These children among the refugees formed a gang in the
1980s called MS-13, which loosely translated means Salvadoran Gang
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
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 Salvadore.
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
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
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
"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. (The homicide rate is roughly five times
that of Mexico and 10 times that of the US.)
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
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