MS-13 gang makes US 'criminal organization' list

Mara Salvatrucha, the Salvadoran street gang that got its start in the heart of Los Angeles' Koreatown, has been officially designated by federal authorities as a "transnational criminal organization." MS-13, as it's also known, "is being targeted for its involvement in serious transnational criminal activities, including drug trafficking, kidnapping, human smuggling, sex trafficking, murder, assassinations, racketeering, blackmail, extortion, and immigration offenses," the US Department of the Treasury stated. That means the federal government can use "economic sanctions" against the gang, which has also established a foothold in El Salvador. The designation gives the Treasury Department the power to freeze any financial assets from the gang or its members and prohibits financial institutions from engaging in any transactions with members of the group. 

Los Angeles police say they have had their hands full with an outbreak of violence on MS-13's home turf, citing a recent spate of shootings in the Koreatown area where the gang was born in the 1980s when war refugees from El Salvador flooded the community. According to the LAPD, Hoover Street  is a local dividing line between MS-13 and their rivals, the 18th Street gang. The LAPD's elite Violent Crimes Task Force has been dispatched to the area.

But in El Salvador, Security Minister David Munguía Payés said a "truce" was in effect between MS-13 and its local rivals, and he hoped that it would not be impacted by the organization's new designation. He emphasized that the MS-13 leaders in El Salvador "are not people who have great quantities of money." (LA Weekly, LA Weekly, LAT, El Comercio, DC, Oct. 12)