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Threat Alert: MS13 and the Blending of Youth Gangs with Drug Cartels

Often it doesn't get the attention that the Mexican cartel drug violence gets in the media. Frankly, quite often the media doesn't pay all that much attention to the cartel related violence in general, and there are still too many Americans that do not appreciate the true threat represented by the encroachment of Mexican drug violence into our streets. So, while independent of the Mexican cartel, activities of transnational gangs like MS-13 and the 18th St. Gang represent a considerable threat to US citizens.

A recent F.B.I. press release described the multinational effort to counter the activities of Mara Salvatrucha (or MS-13), one of the largest and most violent street gang in the U.S. and Central America. A second transnational gang, the 18th Street gang, is also a target of law enforcement. A joint program of the F.B.I. and the State Department, the Central American Law Enforcement Exchange (CALEE) is an initiative that helps to bring resources together from both sides of the border.

This video describes the effort of the F.B.I. MS-13 National Gang Task Force and CALEE.

FBI-MS13.JPG MS-13 seems to derive its culture from several prisons in El Salvador. There have been instances in the past where murders on US soil were conducted on orders originating from prisons in El Salvador. However, as this article stresses, there are MS members in prisons in large numbers throughout Central America.

There is also strong evidence that there is gang activity in the military.

According to the militarytimes.com: "Gang-related activity in the US Armed Forces is increasing. Although gang members constitute only a fraction of military personnel nationwide, their presence can compromise installation security and force protection both internally and externally. Gang members in the military can disrupt good order and discipline and threaten military operations. Gang membership in the ranks may also result in a disruption of command, low morale, disciplinary problems, and a broad range of criminal activity. Gang-affiliated military personnel and dependent gang-affiliated children of service members facilitate crime on and off military installations, and are at risk of transferring their weapons and combat training back to the community to employ against rival gang members and law enforcement officers."
It is hard to ignore the connection, even if that connection is still a dotted line instead of a solid one, between gang activity and the drug cartels, and in turn, the threat posed by the blending of cartel activity with youth gangs on the U.S. side of the border.

It is known that the Zetas maintain tight control over their terorrity in the Northeast section of Mexico. From that vantage point, they have access to large cities like Houston Texas that enables them to form alliances with local youth gangs.

For many youths, working for the drug cartels is a far more attractive option than working in local fast food restaurants.

You can work at McDonalds for minimum wage or you can work for Juan and drive a $60,000 Escalade. Take your pick. That is the choice facing many American teenagers in border communities these days and sad to say, some are going for the SUV, unaware of the risk that brings on both sides of the fence.

Among the more disturbing trends is the recruitment of teenagers into the cartels' activities. While it started and thrived in border towns on the Texas side of the Mexican border, recent pronouncements by the Texas Department of Public Safety alerted "the many to what the few" already knew. The recruitment is no longer isolated to the border cities.

While such recruitment is growing across Texas, juveniles along the Texas-Mexico border are particularly susceptible. In 2008, young people from the counties along the Texas-Mexico border accounted for just 9 percent of the population in Texas, but 18 percent of the felony drug charges and gang-related arrests.

However, perhaps the more disconcerting is that the DPS warning Nov. 17 about Mexican cartel recruitment beyond the border took some by surprise. DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange did not have any recent evidence of cartel recruitment in the state's interior. Several school districts contacted said they had seen the alert and had taken notice, but none knew of any such cases in their districts.

Indeed, while DPS "does not have recent evidence" of involvement in non-border communities, this past year has shown a dramatic increase in graffiti tagging along newly constructed overpasses in South and Central Texas. There have been "hushed" reports of drug gang activities in "good" high schools in upper middle class sections of San Antonio.

Over 2000 people have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez in 2009. To think that 2010 will be better is probably too optimistic. Be afraid, be very afraid. And being forewarned is being forearmed.