US President Donald Trump

In our April 20 Facebook Live session, Co-director Steven Dudley spoke with Senior Investigator Héctor Silva Ávalos about the recent rhetorical offensive launched against the MS13 by the administration of US President Donald Trump.

Dudley opened the conversation by asking Silva about his recent article examining the false and misleading statements about the MS13 that have been offered by Trump and top members of his administration, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

Silva explained the history of the MS13's development in Los Angeles, California in the 1980s, and how migration patterns contributed to the the gang's expansion across most of the United States by the 2000s. However, he also pushed back against the notion proffered by Trump that the "weak" immigration policies of the administration of former President Barack Obama contributed to a resurgence of the MS13 in the United States during his time in office.

SEE ALSO: MS13 News and Profile

Dudley and Silva discussed how local and federal law enforcement actions taken during the administrations of both Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, delivered strong blows to the MS13 that seriously disrupted the gang's operations in the United States, particularly on the East Coast. And they contrasted the successes of the US approach with the shortcomings of El Salvador's "mano dura," or "iron fist," strategy for dealing with gangs.

In addition, Dudley and Silva discussed the dynamics of the relationship between the MS13's leadership in El Salvador and the gang's "clicas," or cells, in the United States. Rather than a hierarchical structure capable of carrying out complex transnational criminal operations like drug trafficking, Silva explained how the MS13 is a loose network that allows local leaders a significant degree of control over the gang's activities in their areas of influence.

The conversation concluded with Dudley asking Silva about "what works" in terms of helping communities overcome problems related to gangs like MS13. Silva highlighted the key role of cooperation between law enforcement authorities and community stakeholders, as well as the importance of gathering and sharing reliable intelligence in order to develop solutions based on accurate assessments of the situation.

Watch the Facebook Live broadcast for the full conversation:

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right...

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...