Mara Salvatrucha (commonly abbreviated as MS, Mara, and MS-13) is a criminal gang that originated in Los Angeles and has spread to Central America, other parts of the United States, and Canada. MS-13 is one of the most dangerous gangs in the United States. The majority of the gang is ethnically composed of Salvadorans, Hondurans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans.
Their activities have caught the eye of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who in September 2005 initiated wide-scale raids against suspected gang members, netting 660 arrests across United States. ICE efforts were at first directed towards MS-13, in its Operation Community Shield. In May 2005, ICE expanded Operation Community Shield to include all transnational organized crime and prison gangs. ICE's Operation Community Shield has since arrested 7,655 street gang members. In the United States, the gang's strongholds have historically been in the American Southwest and West Coast states. Membership in the U.S was believed to be as many as about 50,000 as of 2005. MS-13 criminal activities include drug smuggling and sales, arms trafficking, auto theft, carjacking, home invasion, assault, aggravated assault, assault on law enforcement officials, drive-by shootings, contract killing and murder.
Many Mara Salvatrucha gang members from the Los Angeles area have been deported after being arrested. As a result of these deportations, members of MS-13 have recruited more members in their home countries. The Los Angeles Times contends that deportation policies have contributed to the size and influence of the gang both in the United States and in Central America. Salvadoran authorities report that approximately 60% of prison inmates serving prison terms for gang-related crimes there have either fled from prosecution in, or have been deported from, the United States.
In recent years the gang has expanded into the Washington, D.C. area, in particular the areas of Langley Park and Takoma Park near the Washington border have become centers of MS-13 gang activity.
According to The Washington Times, MS-13 "is thought to have established a major smuggling center" in Mexico. There were reports that MS-13 members were ordered to Arizona to target U.S. Border Patrol agents and Minuteman Project volunteers.
In 2005, Honduran Security Minister Oscar Alvarez and the President of El Salvador raised alarm by claiming that Muslim terrorist organisation Al-Qaeda was meeting with MS-13 and other Central American gangs to help them infiltrate the United States. FBI agents said that the U.S. intelligence community and governments of several Central American countries found there is no basis to believe that MS-13 is connected to Al-Qaeda or other Islamic radicals, although Oscar did visit Central America to discuss the issue.
Robert Morales, a prosecutor for Guatemala, indicated to The Globe and Mail that some Central American gang members seek refugee status in Canada. Superintendent of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police integrated gang task force, John Robin, said in an interview that "I think [gang members] have a feeling that police here won't treat them in the harsh manner they get down there." Robin noted that Canadian authorities "want to avoid ending up like the U.S., which is dealing with the problem of Central American gangsters on a much bigger scale".
Symbols: MS-13, colors blue and white, the El Salvadorian flag,
Territory: U.S., El Salvador, Honduras, Peru, Guatemala, Mexico
Ethnicity: Salvadorans, Hondurans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans.
In 1980, The Mara Salvatrucha 13 was founded by El Salvadorian immigrant criminals in the gang-infested Ramparts area of Los Angeles, California. (Gang Intelligence 101)
In 1997, MS-13 members kidnap and brutally murder Honduras President Ricardo Maduro. (Associated Press)
In October 25, 1997, MS-13 members brutally stab and murder fellow member Walter "Camello" Gomez at a New Jersey Park. (State v. Torres, 874 A.2d 1084, 183 N.J. 554 (NJ, 2005)
In 2001, MS-13 member Walter Chirino is arrested by the FBI for attempting to transport narcotics and illegal firearms to New York. (U.S. v. Chirino, 483 F.3d 141 (2nd Cir., 2007)
In 2002, several heavily armed MS-13 members execute 28 people including 7 children in the city of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. (Associated Press)
In 2003, MS-13 members stab and kill Cesar Rios Garcia at a party in Arlington, Virginia. (Corado v. Commonwealth, Record No. 1982-04-4 (VA 12/28/2005)
In 2004, MS-13 members mail body parts to Guatemalan President Oscar Berger and threaten to kill his family. (Associated Press)
May 24, 2004, MS-13 members brutally murder 18th Street rival 38 year old Ashley Antonio Urias in Silver Spring, Maryland (Ayala v. State, 923 A.2d 952, 174 Md. App. 647 (Md. App., 2007)
In Nov 2, 2004, several heavily armed MS-13 gang members raid a Houston, Texas stash house and murder Juan Antonio Bautista, 29, and Jose Antonio Pino, 33. The motive of the murder was robbery. (Associated Press)
In December 2004, the FBI launch a multi-agency MS-13 National Gang Task Force after society is fed up with gang terror. (FBI Headline Archives)
In April 1, 2005, Mara Salvatrucha leader, Ebner Anivel Rivera-Paz, declares war on all American "Minutemen". (Associated Press)
In April 2005, MS-13 members rob over $50,000 dollars in cash and prescription drugs from several Walgreen’s drug stores of its Madison, Wisconsin. (Associated Press)
In August, 2005, MS-13 members murder Virginia native, Brenda Paz who is pregnant after the gang believes the woman is a police informant. (Associated Press)
On June 17, 2006, Mara Salvatrucha members shot and kill two rival gang "Brown Pride" members in Nashville, Tennessee. (Associated Press)
On December 24, 2006 three MS-13 members murder 15 year-old Pashad Gray in Flushing, New York. (Associated Press)
In February 2009, Twenty MS-13 members are indicted in Denver, Colorado on drug and firearm charge. (CNN)
In 2008, four MS-13 members are arrested after they rape and attempt to extort the owner of a Houston, Texas beauty salon. (Associated Press)
On July 2007, in Hyattsville, Maryland, MS-13 leaders order gang prospect Mario Rodriguez-Gutierrez to shoot and kill Francisco Quintanilla as an initiation into the gang. Gutierrez is arrested and sentenced to life in prison. (Washington Post)
In August, 2007, MS-13 members murder three Newark collage students execution-style. (New York Times)
On March 31, 2008 thirteen MS-13 members are sentenced to prison in Nashville, Tennessee after pleading guilty to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. (Associated Press)
In November 1, 2008, 20 year old MS-13 member is arrested for the murder of 14-year old Tai Lam in Montgomery, Pennsylvania. (Associated Press)
In November 2, 2008, MS-13 members shoot and kill a 51 year old Jorge Alberto Vindel Ramos in Lexington County, South Carolina. (Associated Press)