What Do MS13 Gang Members Think About Trump?

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US President Donald Trump has said he will “finish” the MS13, whose members he has described as “murderers and rapists.” InSight Crime asked some gang members to respond. 

The Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) was born in the early 1980s in Los Angeles, California. Due to a change in deportation policies, which were carried out during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, the gang expanded in Central America’s Northern Triangle countries — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — until it became one of the deadliest gangs in the region. It is currently considered by some to be the most violent in the world. 

The gang members who avoided deportation managed to expand across the United States to become “one of the largest, best organized street gangs in the United States and one notorious for its violence,” according to US Congressional testimony. In the first decade of the 2000s, laws against organized crime and illicit associations, including the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and Violent Crime in Aid of Racketeering Enterprise statute (VICAR), targeted the MS13 for a wide variety of crimes. 

US authorities’ fight against the MS13 stiffened further in 2005 with Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Operation Community Shield, which ran until October 2012, when the Treasury Department designated the MS13 as “a transnational criminal organization,” sanctioning nine of its members. 

Now with the arrival of Donald Trump as the new president of the United States, the gang is more active and alive than ever. And the president knows this. 

Shortly before Trump took office, he gave an interview to Time magazine. During the conversation with reporter Michael Scherer, the then-president-elect pulled out a copy of Newsday and highlighted what the headline said, “‘EXTREMELY VIOLENT’ GANG FACTION.” 

Trump then said, “They come from Central America. They’re tougher than any people you’ve ever met … They’re killing and raping everybody out there. They’re illegal. And they are finished.”

Trump was alluding to the scope of the MS13 in New York, at the same time as he maintained that the MS13 “would end.” For the time being, the new administration has opted, among other things, for indiscriminate mass deportations in an attempt to target the MS13.

However, the question remains, will deportations succeed in ending the MS13’s presence in the United States?

InSight Crime asked five MS13 gang members about their stance on President Trump and the actions he intends to take against them.

Their responses reflect the awareness and reach these members have in their own gang. They claim not to be as deadly as they are described, but insist that no political administration can extinguish them.

This is what they had to say. 

‘Tramposo’ 

Retired Guatemalan gang member who lives in California. 

What do you think of Donald Trump?

Well, politics is like shit: It stinks, but we have to shit. So, there is no going back against the guy. He’s here and he’s going to do what makes his balls swell. And honestly, that guy does not think he will be reelected. And there’s nothing we can do to change politics. As the saying goes, ‘If it rains lemons, learn to make lemonade.’ 

Do you think his presence will affect the MS13? 

He’s just like the others who use us for cheap propaganda. Like every president in the world. They always look to the weakest to make propaganda. The MS13 will always be the scapegoat of all the ruling parties. So, there’s not much to hope for, unless we are the meat for politicians. 

Do you think the MS13 would take any action if he starts deporting a lot of ‘homies’? 

No. The gang is not at that level of crime to target the president of a global power like the United States. We are a street gang, not terrorists. 

Can Donald Trump dismantle the MS13 as he has proposed?

Of course, we can’t go against the government here, because if that guy sends the Marines to look for us, they will end us very quickly. And if they want to send us out, they will hunt us down and we will leave as easy as that. If we can’t deal with the governments of our own countries, now think how it works in this country. 

‘Catracha’ 

Semi-retired, non-active Honduran gang member, resident of California. 

What do you think of Donald Trump? 

That he’s a son of a bitch. That he’s going to shit on [us] and is shitting on the laws. He’s going to fuck poor people like me. 

Do you think his presence will affect the MS13? 

Yes. With more deportations, tougher laws. He’s going to want to change the law that just came into effect where many homies who are making a living [in jail] are going to leave. 

Do you think the MS13 would take any action if he starts deporting a lot of ‘homies’? 

Maybe, but the gang isn’t like it used to be. Things were tougher before, but not anymore. 

Can Donald Trump dismantle the MS13 as he has proposed?

Never. He doesn’t even know what he’s talking about.

‘Mafioso”

US-based gangster of Salvadoran origin, active and imprisoned in Calipatria State Prison 

What do you think of Donald Trump?

He’s an asshole, a racist fucker. 

Do you think his presence will affect the MS13? 

Yes, that fucker has already caused some shit for the gang. The federal authorities [FBI, ICE, DEA, ATF] do not mess around here.

Do you think the MS13 would take any action if he starts deporting a lot of ‘homies’? 

They wouldn’t do anything because they know that this is not El Salvador. In a month they would dismantle the gang and those who are going to leave, [the ones] who have lost the most, are the ones down there [in El Salvador], and the leaders [of the Mexican Mafia — the MS13 task masters in the United States — or the MS13] will not allow that.

Can Donald Trump dismantle the MS13 as he has proposed? 

The truth is yes, because we have to be realistic. The MS13 is not going to let us go to war with the government because they are going to lose too much. 

‘Spider’ 

Active Salvadoran gangster imprisoned in California. 

What do you think of Donald Trump? 

The truth is he’s a son of a bitch. But if you put your mind to something you will achieve it. He will lead the country, and if the people see a positive change, they will start to accept him. But if it goes to shit, they will hate it. For me, he’s still a son of a bitch. But honestly, I am one too, and I like how he doesn’t give a shit about anything.

Do you think his presence will affect the MS13?

The guy is a bastard, but it is going to affect us. My best wishes for him, because he is lacking any character.

Do you think the MS13 would take any action if he starts deporting a lot of ‘homies’? 

Well, it is going to affect us. They are going to bring down deportations, but when we get back we will be worse, more organized. The next generation of the MS13 will be our children. Americans with our fury and our resentment in their blood. 

Can Donald Trump dismantle the MS13 as he has proposed? 

The future cannot be deported by Trump. [Referring to gang members born in the United States.] How will you deport them? You are going to have to fight “The Beast”* first. 

*The Beast is a nickname for a freight train line used by many Central American migrants to travel through Mexico toward the United States.

‘Necio’ 

Active Salvadoran gang member, deported to Tijuana a year ago. 

What do you think of Donald Trump? 

Fuck him! He’s just a front. That dude will not last. 

Do you think his presence will affect the MS13? 

Yes. Of course he’s going to want to exterminate us, but that’s nothing new. He doesn’t like us. 

Do you think the MS13 would take any action if he starts deporting many ‘homies’? 

I don’t think so, because the federal government is letting us in. That’s a lot of it, because they didn’t do anything in the ’90s [during the first mass deportation of the MS13 to El Salvador] and [the migration is] less nowadays. There are too many fights down there [in El Salvador] to stop this. I don’t think they will do anything, but if somebody does … fuck, it’s gonna be bad. 

Can Donald Trump dismantle with the MS13 as he has proposed? 

Maybe, because the feds are already bringing us in.

*Carlos García is a journalist and researcher specializing in gang issues. He has interviewed members of the MS13 in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the United States, and is writing a book about that group. This article does not necessarily represent the views of InSight Crime.

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