For each week, you will have a choice of which forums to participate in.1 Referring back to the Sullivan and Bunker generational gang model, what generation of gang would a Mexican drug cartel be and why? Explain whether there is a threshold a gang has to pass to evolve in this model.2 Do an online search for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition or “LEAP.” List at least three reasons why you think some drugs should be decriminalized. Discuss whether you think that ALL should drugs be decriminalized or only specific drugs – and why. What are the differences between decriminalization and legalization, and which do you think would be better?3 (Also visit: http://norml.org/) Why do you think marijuana is such a popular drug? What are some of the alleged benefits of using marijuana? What are some of the risks and negative effects associated with marijuana? What are the main reasons why some individuals and organizations propose marijuana decriminalization? Explain whether or not you think that marijuana should be decriminalized or legalized, and why.Your posts must be supported by assigned reading citations, lecture, outside text, or internet reference. Robust commentary is expected. Make sure that your ideas relate to the subject at hand and include properly cited information taken from the course materials, lectures or text! Opinions matter, but posts should draw from, and properly cite, the course materials too. Each forum post should be a minimum of 6 to 8 paragraphs long. Each paragraph should have 6 to 10 sentences with proper English. Do not post foul language and photographs.You must also cite at the end of your posts; these are mini-papers, make sure you write a throughout the response to show that you can appropriately apply course concepts.The content in your posts is important. If you use material from the text or outside source, please cite appropriately. You can state your opinion based on experience.
For each week, you will have a choice of which forums to participate in. 1 Referring back to the Sullivan and Bunker generational gang model, what generation of gang would a Mexican drug cartel be and
How MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs are becoming key players against the coronavirus epidemic in El Salvador Published:Apr 11, 2020 4:22 PM GMT RT spoke exclusively with the spokespersons of two of the hegemonic gangs in El Salvador, who are promoting the confinement of families in houses – violently, in the case of the Mara Salvatrucha – to contain the spread of the virus. During a police operation, a police officer monitors access to the Colfer community in San Salvador, where the Barrio 18-Revolucionario gang operates. Roberto Valencia / RT “Good morning, Salvadoran people,” says a man’s voice, youthful, “we are in the work that the Barrio 18-Sureños has set out to do this day, is it ?, helping the most needy, affected? for the covid 2019 “. A lady comes out of her shack, rural, and gratefully picks up a large package: beans, oil, cornmeal, toilet paper, sugar, rice … “Happy day, little mother!” Says, by way of farewell, the same youthful voice that records the delivery. The scene is pure surrealism, ducks shooting shotguns, though not so easy to spot in the layman’s eyes. In El Salvador, the maras or gangs are playing a leading role in the crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. RT spoke with the spokesmen for Barrio 18-Sureños (18-S) and Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) – two of the three hegemonic gangs -, who confirmed the participation of these criminal structures in promoting the confinement of houses , social distancing and, in the case of the 18-S, even in distributing food among low-income families. Barrio 18-Sureños distributes food “We humbly ask you to abide by the Government’s regulations for the emergency that the country is going through,” reads a statement signed by the 18-S gang: “Do not leave if it is not necessary, please ask our neighborhoods and neighborhoods, where you control the Barrio 18-Sureños “. Context. The gang phenomenon is imported. Both MS-13 and Barrio 18 were born in Los Angeles (United States), and it was in the early nineties when they began to settle in Central America, via the policy of mass deportations unleashed by Washington; first they gained presence in urban-marginal areas, and later, in rural areas. After three decades, gangs are today a parallel power in countless communities, colonies and Salvadoran cantons in which the presence of the State is stunted Gang members determine who enters the neighborhood or who studies at the institute, a control that has generated that, in practice, the country is divided by ‘invisible borders’ delimited by the areas of influence of the gangs. The largest and best organized is MS-13. The Barrio 18 was divided into two factions more than a decade ago: the referred 18-Sureños and the 18-Revolutionaries. All in all, it is estimated at around 60,000 active gang members, and more than 300,000 people who make up their social mattress (girlfriends, wives, family members, collaborators) in a country of just 6.8 million inhabitants. Barrio 18-Sureños distributes food Maras and epidemic On the afternoon of Monday, March 30, the MS-13 broadcast audio and text messages on its fields (the neighborhoods or neighborhoods in which it has a presence, in gang slang) via WhatsApp announcing a ‘curfew’. Except for going to work or shopping, they did not want anyone outside their homes, under threat of being “severely corrected by us.” The following day, they reinforced the statement with a series of videos that went viral on social networks, recorded in different parts of the country, and in which Emeese gang members beat men who had left their homes with bats on the legs. “People ignore it. People, when they see that the (police) patrols enter our courts , they get into their house, but, once the patrol turns around, they return to the street to play cards on the sidewalks and things like that, “the MS-13 spokesperson told RT. The spokesperson certified that the videos of the beatings were recorded and distributed by Mara Salvatrucha: “Those videos were made so that people would see that it was not a false statement.” The digital newspaper El Faro, one of the Latin American benchmarks in investigative journalism, published on March 31 the report ‘ Gangs threaten anyone who breaches quarantine .’ The note endorsed the idea of the “curfew”, but presented it as a decision agreed by the three gangs, and of forced implementation in “the communities that live under their control.” Graffiti of Danger Criminales Locos (DCLS), a ‘clique’ of the Mara Salvatrucha that operates in the Brisas del Norte neighborhood, in Apopa. Roberto Valencia / RT However, RT verified, with more than a dozen testimonies from people living in colonies under the control of the three gangs, that neither on the fields of the Barrio 18-Sureños nor in the most significant of the 18-Revolución (such as the community Las Palmas, in San Salvador) there is a ‘curfew’ that prevents neighbors from leaving the houses. “Those audios (those of the MS-13) have cost us to deny them on our courts , right? And we want to clear up that misunderstanding,” the 18-S spokesperson told RT. Both the 18-Sureños and the Mara Salvatrucha seek the same thing, that the people who live in the colonies under their control abide by the Government’s provisions regarding confinement and distancing, but differ in how to achieve that purpose. What is life like in a containment center? El Salvador, one of the first countries in the world to enact drastic measures against the coronavirus The delivery of food to low-income families in different departments of the country, sponsored by the 18-S, would become a way of marking distance with the methods used by the MS-13. The Government is silent RT consulted two senior government officials about the leading role of the gangs, but they said they were not authorized to speak on the record about the issue. Although newspapers like the US Los Angeles Times or the Argentine Clarín have echoed the violence exerted by the MS-13, President Nayib Bukele has not even written a tweet. Tiziano Breda, analyst for Central America at the International Crisis Group (ICG), did speak. The ICG estimates that gangs have a presence in 90% of the 262 Salvadoran municipalities, and explained that such a massive presence of these criminal groups is due to the fact that, “by their very nature, gangs live in symbiosis with communities that, de facto, they control. ” To try to explain what is happening these days in El Salvador, Breda said that in the gangs “the same logic lies behind reaffirming their own authority and strengthening their own legitimacy vis-à-vis the communities they claim to protect.” Gangs order quarantine in Latin America in the absence of state He also endorsed the uneven behavior of the three gangs: “The evidence seems to suggest that it is mainly the MS-13 that is implementing the ‘curfew’ with more vigor.” Under threat or with incentives, the truth is that gangs are contributing to what for the Government of the Republic is a priority today: that people lock themselves in their homes. With just over 100 confirmed infections, El Salvador remains one of the Latin American countries least hit by covid-19. “That the interests of the government and the gangs coincide does not necessarily imply that there is a negotiation, of which there is also no evidence,” values the ICG expert, and is encouraged by an interpretation: “The actions of the gangs could have as The objective is not only to protect their communities and to reiterate their territorial power, but also to improve relations with the Government and place themselves in a more favorable position in a possible informal interaction, current or future. ” RT conveyed the concern to the MS-13 spokesperson. He was asked that someone might believe that there is some sort of alliance between that gang and the government. He answered this: “There are no alliances here, starting with the fact that the police seized some of those who were hitting the fools. No, there are no alliances here.” The maras or gangs are playing an unusual role in how El Salvador is facing the pandemic. There’s no doubt. But there are still many unanswered questions on this topic. One: who provided the Barrio 18-Sureños with the food they have distributed on their fields ? Roberto Valencia from San Salvador (El Salvador)
For each week, you will have a choice of which forums to participate in. 1 Referring back to the Sullivan and Bunker generational gang model, what generation of gang would a Mexican drug cartel be and
“ A Large Scale Exodus ” Alex Sanchez was seven years old, in 1979, when he crossed the southern border of the United States along with his younger brother under the care of a coyote, a smuggler of humans. The start of the civi l war back home wouldn ’t come until the following year, when a gunman would assassinate Archbishop Óscar Romero, an outspoken critic of his government ’s ongoing campaign of torture and repression, as he gave Mass in a church -run hospital in San Salvador. B ut the violence had been building for years. Several times, while on his way to school, Sanchez had passed the gruesome spectacle of a corpse dismembered by machete, which the army had left on display in the street as a sort of public warning. His parents had gone ahead a few years earlier to settle in Los Angeles. Now, at last, they had sent for him. Arriving in California —against the backdrop of Disneyland and the iconic Hollywood hills that Sanchez knew from news broadcasts —it was possible to believe in all the promise of a new beginning. 8399_State of War_1P.indd 25 9/17/19 10:58 AM Chapter One – “A Large Scale Exodus” 26 STATE OF WAR Gradually, the contours of their new reality came into focus. The family was crammed into a one -bedroom apartment in the neighborhood of Pico -Union, a rundown section of central L.A. that had been abandoned a decade earlier in the flight to the suburbs. His parents were undocumented, working under the table. Sanchez felt the burden he represente d as another mouth to feed, even as he bristled at the parental authority he had learned to live without. He spoke no English, and quickly learned that Salvadorans were viewed with disdain in the predominately Mexican community. Sanchez ’s mother dealt with the pressures in her own way, becoming a Jehovah ’s Witness. She took Alex with her as she went from door to door in their neighborhood to proselytize, and to church, where he would give weekly testimonies. Among his classmates, however, this only reinforc ed his isolation. Frequently bullied, he found himself alone at the bottom of an unforgiving food chain. Soon enough, Sanchez would find allies among the waves of Central Americans fleeing class -based struggles and the dismal economies that had produced th em. Back in El Salvador, a quarter -million people turned out for Archbishop Romero ’s funeral in 1980, when shadowy forces suddenly attacked the crowd, detonating explosives and shooting down at people from rooftops and windows. The country quickly descended into a vicious civil war, which pitted a coalition of leftist guerilla groups against a right -wing government backed by Washington. Right -wing leader Roberto D ’Aubuisson admitted, according to a declassified 1982 State Department memo, that the death squads stalking the population were in fact comprised of official security forces whose “members use the guise of the death squad 8399_State of War _1P.indd 26 9/17/19 10:58 AM WILLIAM WHEELER COLUMBIA GLOBAL REPORTS when a potentially embarrassing or odious task needs to be per – 27 formed. ” Members of an infamous U.S. -created battalion would go on to massacre entire villages. This was the Cold War, a nd the threat of another communist victory in its backyard was something that Washington wanted to avoid at any cost. So the United States sent military advisers and materiel, spending more than $4.5 billion to prop up the Salvadoran regime over the course of a war that dragged on for twelve years and claimed 75,000 lives before ending in a stalemate. Throughout, most Salvadorans found themselves caught in the middle, as Joan Didion observed, “in a country where the left had no interest in keeping peasants less ‘radicalized ’ and the right remained unconvinced that these peasants could not simply be eliminated. ” Not surprisingly, roughly a million of them left, half of whom sought safety and a better life in the U.S. They settled mostly in Los Angeles, flooding into the neighborhood around Pico -Union, where their outsider status was compounded by their legal reality as undocumented immigrants. Adhering to the standard se t by the context of the Second World War, the U.S. limits its definition of a refugee to someone persecuted because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or social group. Those merely seeking a haven from generalized violence don ’t qualify. Po litical expediency has always played a role in U.S. refugee policy, though, and exceptions were made for those fleeing Washington ’s Cold War enemies, including communist regimes in Vietnam, the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Nicaragua. But to have made a similar exception for those fleeing Washington ’s ally would be to admit an uncomfortable reality of America ’s foreign policy. Churches and Central American 8399_State of War_1P.indd 27 9/17/19 10:58 AM Chapter One – “A Large Scale Exodus” 28 STATE OF WAR immigrant groups joined forces to advocate for Salvadorans and Guatemalans (the latter involved in a devastating civil war that would claim 200,000 lives), filing a 1985 lawsuit that eventually secured them work permits and the opportunity to reapply for asylum. No netheless, their presence contributed to a growing anti -immigrant sentiment. The following year Ronald Reagan signed into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which tried to disincentivize illegal immigration by tightening control of the border and slapping business owners who hired undocumented labor with stricter penalties —the first major revision of immigration law in decades. Apparently the move scared Salvadoran President José Napoleón Duarte, who was worried that a flood of re turning Salvadorans would destabilize a government teetering on the brink of defeat. Reagan wrote to reassure him, acknowledging “that the sudden return of many thousands of Salvadorans now in the U.S. could, as you point out, have a disastrous effect on E l Salvador. ” Reagan had been assured that “a large scale exodus of undocumented Salvadorans ” from the U.S. was not expected as a result of the policy, he continued, and promised that Duarte ’s concerns would be relayed to the proper officials in order to ke ep the undocumented Salvadorans right where they were. Where they were, in Sanchez ’s case, was forming the vanguard of MS -13. Rather than a Salvadoran import, they were, like the gangs of New York before them, the byproduct of a particularly American urban experience. “In a pattern that has become familiar, ” writes Al Valdez, a retired police officer and gang expert, “the predatory and dynamic Los Angeles street environment in which immigrant Salvadorian youth found themselves 8399_State of War_1P.indd 28 9 /17/19 10:58 AM WILLIAM WHEELER COLUMBIA GLOBAL REPORTS became the catalyst that compelled the first Mara Salvatrucha 29 cliques to form. ” By this time Sanchez had found protection and solidarity in a circle of pot -smoking Salvadoran metalheads. They came from families like his that had been split up in the process of emigrating, then reassembled with stepparents and new siblings. They were unwanted —in both the country that had displaced them and the country where they landed —and angry about it. When they rebelled, their parents resorted to extreme discipline to straighten them out. They called themselves the “Mara Salvatrucha Stoners. ” When Sanchez w as jumped in, his initiation consisted of a vicious beating by the other members for a period of thirteen seconds (thirteen being the Gothic number for bad luck). At fourteen, he ran away from home and gave himself the nickname “El Rebelde, ” the rebel. San chez and his friends were sleeping on rooftops and in abandoned houses. But for the first time he felt free. L.A. ’s first Latino gangs had sprung up, a century earlier, in the barrios where Mexican families who had been living in the area for generations b egan falling back in the face of what today might be called gentrification. Bound by culture and the shared experience of marginalization in the wider, whiter society, they were largely protective of their communities. By the late 1960s, Mexican youth, fac ing harassment from local gangs whose membership was limited to U.S. citizens of pure Hispanic heritage, had banded together in Sanchez ’s neighborhood to form Barrio 18 —a group that would become Sanchez ’s rivals and the city ’s second -most notorious interna tional export. In the diverse tapestry of L.A. ’s gang life, the Mara Salvatrucha Stoners emerged from among dozens of so -called 8399_State of War_1P.indd 29 9/17/19 10:58 AM Chapter One – “A Large Scale Exodus” 30 STATE OF WAR “stoner gangs ” roaming the city in the mid -1970s. “Mara, ” which derives from the name from a particularly ferocious ant, refers to one ’s circle of friends. “Salva ” comes from Salvadoran. “Trucha ” connotes something like “beware. ” Together, the name might loosely transla te to “watch out for my Salvadoran crew. ” They dressed in tight, roughed -up bellbottoms, grew their hair long down their backs, and wore Converse shoes, whose five -pointed star logo resembled the pentagram. Unlike the Chicano gangs, these Salvadoran stoner s were more likely to be dropping acid in the mosh pit than out looking for fights. They took as their hand signal heavy metal ’s devil horn salute —a fist with the index and little finger extended —which members today flash on the streets and tag on the wall s of slums across Central America. Their rise and early predilection for the macabre was also animated by ghosts of war in the combat experience of a small core of veterans from the conflict back in El Salvador. Among the 150 or so early members who anthro pologist T. M. Ward interviewed for his book Gangsters Without Borders: An Ethnography of a Salvadoran Street Gang , six had fought with the guerillas and seven with the Salvadoran military (including some who had been trained in counterinsurgency tactics a t the infamous U.S. -run School of the Americas). Their numbers also included a handful of animal -sacrificing Satanists, only adding to their street cred. The gang cultivated the mythology: A reputation as human -sacrificing devil -worshippers proved handy in Los Angeles. Sanchez and his friends began stealing cars, at a time when an arrest record became a badge of honor. As they circulated through juvenile hall, they began to mirror the style and attitude of the Chicano gangs they mixed with in order to fit in. 8399_State of War_1P.indd 30 9/17/19 10:58 AM WILLIAM WHEELER COLUMBIA GLOBAL REPORTS They shaved off their long hair, traded their bellbottoms for 31 baggy khakis, their Converse for Nike Cortez with knee -high socks. On the outside, they drew the attention of the city ’s dominant Latino and African -American gangs as they moved in bigger numbers, and those gangs began to target them. Be fore long, two of Sanchez ’s associates had been murdered by rivals to show their dominance, drawing them all deeper into the ecology of conflict. Sanchez and his allies learned early on the power of fear, as he recognized the first time he saw an MS -13 mem ber whip out a machete during a massive rumble in MacArthur Park. Salvadorans were used to machetes as an agricultural tool. But the sight of the blade elicited a level of shock in their rivals that left an impression —it reminded him of the corpses in the streets of San Salvador. Soon the machete became their signature weapon. A cycle of escalation followed. The machetes became guns. Guns became Uzi ’s. Soon the weapon of choice was the AK -47. Eventually, Sanchez would come to see gangbanging as something close to suicide. A rival gang member was just another version of himself; it was like looking in the mirror and wanting to destroy what he saw. By this time, Valdez writes, the laws governing the barrios were being rewritten. Even as the new ethnic groups s treaming into the city were absorbed into the existing order or fighting to establish their own, the established Mexican street gangs “had come to believe that the turf they claimed was theirs by right, no matter what changes had come to the Barrio. ” Local residents and shop owners became prey as the gangs consolidated and extended their reach over whole communities through force and intimida tion. “There were no rules except that only 8399_State of War_1P.indd 31 9/17/19 10:58 AM Chapter One – “A Large Scale Exodus” 32 STATE OF WAR the strong survived and that the more you were feared, the more respect, control, and power your gang would have. ” Increasingly, the clearest route to power came through drug trafficking. African American street gangs like the Bloods and the Crips, which had emerged during the 1960s, controlled the crack trade. But the Latino gangs were the fastest growing and consti tuted the majority of gang members in Los Angeles County, and some had begun to cultivate their own relationships with suppliers in Mexico. In the late 1980s, conflict erupted as MS -13 began to wrest control of turf from Barrio 18 to muscle their way into the drug trade, and the clashes drew in other gangs. Control of the local drug market monetized turf, giving each group a reason to fight for every park, stoop, and street corner like they owned it. Between 1988 and 1991, gang membership in Los Angeles Cou nty, now the gang capital of America, doubled from 50,000 members in 450 gangs to 100,000 in 750 gangs. Still, something like an uneasy peace existed between the city ’s different ethnic gangs, with the majority of violence occurring within each group, not between them. But then Los Angeles exploded —in the form of the L.A. riots. The irony was not lost on Sanchez that public fear over the threat posed by the city ’s African American and Latino gangs quickly overshadowed concern about the legacy of police brutality and racial animus that had triggered the violence, on display in the videotaped beating of Rodney King at the hands of LAPD officers. One of its consequences, however, was a n escalation of “black and brown ” violence and a resulting push for consolidation and control of the Latino gangs by the Mexican Mafia. “La Eme ” had originated in the 1960s, taking control of the contraband trade in California prisons. But this prison gang had 8399_State of War_1P.indd 32 9/17/19 10:58 AM WILLIAM WHEELER COLUMBIA GLOBAL REPORTS since grown into an organized and highly disciplined force. From 33 behind the walls of maximum -security facilities like northern California ’s Pelican Bay prison, La Eme set itself up as a distributor between Mexican cartels and the southern California Latino street gangs they used as muscle, particularly Barrio 18. In 1992, La Eme demanded these gangs pay a “tax ” on all their drug profits, which would ostensibly go t o a fund to help incarcerated gang members. Most obeyed. Others, including many MS cliques, refused. In response, La Eme put them on a “green light list ” that allowed others to kill them at will. MS cliques flaunted their independence with tattoos that pro claimed them to be “green lighters ” or “tax free. ” In the wake of mounting death tolls between the Latino gangs, a Mexican Mafia leader sent out an edict to stop the violence, which eventually culminated in a truce between the city ’s Latino gangs. The media promoted the narrative that this was a public -spirited gesture. But gang defectors later described it as a means by which La Eme inserted an agent to enforce its tax collecti on from the gangs and extend its control over the region ’s drug trade. In the process, this prison gang backed by its “Sureño ” gang structure became southern California ’s first organized crime syndicate. Valdez, the former cop, acknowledges that the net ef fect was “to impose at least a degree of discipline at the street level …if only because drugged up operatives and misdirected violence attract the attention of authorities and cut into profits. ” But Sanchez saw it as something more. Tapped to negotiate pea ce with La Eme, he became an emissary to the other restive gang factions that had resisted its yoke. He was summoned to a meeting —in a park, no weapons —of the city ’s Latino gang leaders, who were eager to exchange phone 8399_State of War_1P.indd 33 9/17/19 10:58 AM Chapter One – “A Large Scale Exodus” 34 STATE OF WAR numbers and bring him into the fold to help establish boundaries and adjudicate disputes. They were part of a system, he realized, that had the power not only to collect taxes but to control the violence —to wage war or to bring peace —in the city ’s streets. In hindsight, he would come to believe that this was what had so frightened the authorities. But a strong state brooks no such challenge. Law enforcement soon hit back with racketeering charges and court -ordered injunctions that banned gang members from appearing together in public. In response to Mara Salvatrucha ’s growing clout, Sanchez watched authorities increasingly target them, and many of his associa tes fanned out to start franchises in smaller towns across the state. Amid the police abuses that followed, Valdez would conclude the injunctions had failed because most came without funds to improve life in the communities that had fostered the gangs or a ny way out for those who wanted one. The lure of new markets, meanwhile, was driving the gangs ’ expansion across the country, as L.A. ’s gang problem was quickly becoming America ’s. Salvadoran hubs in Washington, D.C. and New York City were magnets. The con cept of turf was changing as the gang migrated, from the strictly defined territory of the barrio to basically anywhere a clique found itself. In Los Angeles County, gang -related deaths would peak at 807 in 1995, nearly double the rate from seven years ear lier, and total gang membership would reach 150,000 people in 1,100 gangs. One of Sanchez ’s protégés from that time, who went by the street name Angel de la Muerte (Angel of Death), was part of that migration. When we met, in a jail in El Salvador, he cite d another reason for his departure from Los Angeles: Alex 8399_State of War_1P.indd 34 9/17/19 10:58 AM WILLIAM WHEELER COLUMBIA GLOBAL REPORTS Sanchez. Angel remembered him in the highest terms —as “a 35 natural born killer. ” Sanchez was eloquent and had a conscience. He looked out for the younger guys. But when he had the devil in him, he was to be avoided at all costs. Angel wanted to be like Sanchez when he grew up —which was one of the reasons his family moved him away from California. Angel had been born in San Miguel, El Salvador, in 1975. His memories of the country are also punctuated with scenes of people being murdered by machete. A decade later his family left for the U.S. after his father, a member of Salvadoran special forces, was killed by a grenade blast. Three years later, when he was thirteen, Angel walked across the desert with a coyote to join them in Los Angeles. He was told it was the good life there. When he arrived, his grandmother told him to focus on school. But his new Salvadoran friends told him to follow their lead. Angel took to drinking and smoking, wearing bandannas and baggy jeans sagging low on his hips. They told him he was one of them now and could have any girl he liked . He told himself he had found the good life. One afternoon, he was sitting with a girl he liked on a stoop, surrounded by his friends, when a car rolled past spraying bullets, killing her. His friends told him they knew who was responsible. They asked if he wanted revenge, if he wanted to get his letters. It was like the devil whispering in his ear. That night he became a trigger -puller. The next day, they jumped him in. He felt proud. The first time he pulled the trigger, he liked it. The devil gets into you when you commit your first murder, he believed. He was thirteen years old. They joked that one day he would be their leader. In 1995, Angel ’s family moved him to Virginia, a move that coincided with the expansion of Latino gangs across the 8399_State o f War_1P.indd 35 9/17/19 10:58 AM Chapter One – “A Large Scale Exodus” 36 STATE OF WAR country. In Virginia, Angel soon fell back into the good life. He liked the fast money and the cocaine. He became the leader of a clique, and things quickly went off the rails. It wasn ’t like the early days, when they would provide for their homies in jail. Before long he was traveling Mexico linking up with drug kingpin s and murdering his friends for money. One night, in 1998, SWAT busted down his door and caught him with nearly a kilo of cocaine. By that time Latino gangs had established themselves in forty -eight states, including small towns across the heartland. In Ca lifornia, Sanchez was caught in the revolving door between prison and the barrio, where LAPD anti -gang units were now working hand in hand with immigration agents. Voters had passed the state ’s “Three Strikes ” measure mandating a life sentence for repeat o ffenders of serious crimes, and Governor Pete Wilson had ridden to reelection on a ballot that curbed undocumented immigrants ’ access to healthcare, education, and welfare. It was an austere new era in which “Latino immigrant youth, alongside African Ameri cans, became fodder for the flourishing prison industrial complex, fed as it was by the war on drugs playing out on the streets of inner -city neighborhoods, ” as University of California professor Elana Zilberg writes. “This growing relationship between cri minal and immigration law culminated in 1996 with the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which mandated the deportation of immigrants — documented or undocumented —with criminal records at the end of their jail sentences. ” Sanchez had suspected the end of El Salvador ’s civil war, in 1992, would clear the obstacles to deporting Salvadorans. But 8399_State of War_1P.indd 36 9/17/19 10:58 AM WILLIAM WHEELER COLUMBIA GLO BAL REPORTS still a boundary remained between immigration and law enforce – 37 ment. Only repeat offenders already known to immigration — those without any documentation at all —would ever get deported. Green card -holders were never deported. Whenever one of his friends was arrested, the judge would usually just funnel him into the proper channels to normalize his immigration status. But the political winds were shifting. In 1994, Republicans took control of the U.S. Congress in midterm elections, many of whom had seized on immigration as a central campaign issue. As part of a post -midterm pivot, President Bill Clinton signed into law tough crime and welfare bills followed by the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. With a stroke of the pen, Clinton “invented immigration enforcement as we know it today, ” as journalist Dara Lind put it, laying the legal framework for the massive deportation machinery with which his successors would later be associated. Prior to the law, immigration en forcement within the country ’s interior had been minimal. The new immigration policies the bill enacted, however, scaled up the number of people who were deportable while scaling down those who could qualify for legal status. The net effect would dramatically increase the number of people living illegally in the U.S. —not only because stepped -up border enforcement was also causing migrants to remain full -time in the U.S., instead of migrating seasonally back -and -forth across the bor der as they had long done for agriculture work. In the decade following the bill, the number of people living in the U.S. illegally grew from 5 million to 12 million, including at least 5.3 million people —or roughly half the undocumented population today —who would have qualified for legal status if it were not 8399_State of War_1P.indd 37 9/17/19 10:58 AM Chapter One – “A Large Scale Exodus” 38 STATE OF WAR for the bill ’s new restrictions, according to estimates by sociologist Douglas Massey. A few months a fter it was passed, Clinton adviser Rahm Emmanuel argued that a tough stance on immigration could be a winning strategy, outlining how an aggressive effort to “claim and achieve record deportations of criminal aliens ” would allow the administration to do w ith immigration what it had with crime. Now shoplifting had become enough to trigger an automatic deportation —an export mechanism that would ultimately help spread Sanchez ’s gang around the country and across the western hemisphere. Judges were talking abo ut “a new mandate, ” and police were out looking for gang members and handing them over to immigration authorities right away, regardless of whether they had a green card or a work permit. Immigrant community leaders were silent on the issue, obsessed with promoting the “model immigrant ” image with which they still hoped to rally support for comprehensive reform despite the shifting political winds (as they had earlier been silent on California ’s “Three Strikes ” measure, considering it an issue for the Afric an-American community). No one was going to speak up on behalf of the gangbanger, who had already wasted his chance at a new life. As a result, Sanchez ’s homies were getting deported left and right. In the process, Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 would go o n to establish themselves not only across the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, but as far away as Australia, Spain, Germany, France, Canada, England, Lebanon, and Peru. Finally, it was Sanchez ’s turn. He had no desire to leave the country, having become a father a month earlier. But neither 8399_State of War_1P.indd 38 9/17/19 10:58 AM WILLIAM WHEELER COLUMBIA GLOBAL REPORTS did he see the wisdom of remaining in detention while fighting 39 a case he knew he would lose. So he signed his deportation order and got ready to start over with a clean slate. Sanchez had learned English and thought he could find work in El Salvador ’s tourism industry. He would have no criminal record there. For the first time he wouldn ’t have to wo rry about immigration officials or the LAPD. Besides, he was looking forward to seeing the lakes and the beaches and all the places his friends in Los Angeles had told him about. Then he found himself at the airport in San Salvador, holding a piece of pape r with an address written on it. Sanchez had been told to find a taxi and that if he acted like he knew where he was going he would get there. En route, he spotted a large boulder alongside the highway that was tagged with his gang ’s initials. That made sense, he thought, a lot of his friends had been deported. But it was a reality check that the past was not far behind him. Farther down the road, he caught sight of a wall stenciled with Roman numerals: XVIII. It was the tag of his enemies in the 18 Street. His guard sprang up. It was a familiar survival instinct, a state of hypervigilance that had him scanning his environment for threats. He felt like he was back in prison. Or the streets of Los Angeles. In the neighborhood where he settled he was confronted by a new reality: He was a tattooed gang member in a country he barely knew, a country that didn ’t want him. His new neighbors were talking. Almost immediately, a g roup of young men confronted him, threatening to kill him. They were MS -13, they told him, and they believed him to be from the Barrio 18. Sanchez called his L.A. contacts and got connected to deported gang members in El Salvador who could vouch for him. T he kids who 8399_State of War_1P.indd 39 9/17/19 10:58 AM Chapter One – “A Large Scale Exodus” 40 STATE OF WAR were threatening to kill him turned out to have no connections to MS -13 at all; they had started the clique on their own. When he challenged them , they backed down, and asked him to jump them in. That morning they were willing to kill him. Now they wanted him to beat them up and initiate them into his gang. He found it surreal. This was happening all across the country. Sanchez saw how many others were being deported, then falling back on their survival skills as a gang member. Authorities had not been tipped off they were coming, and nothing like a database of criminal deportees existed. The larger society shunned them, all except for the kids in the slums, who were looking for something to belong to. The guys in his new neighborhood could have just as easily encountered one of the rivals from Barrio 18 and joined up with them in stead. Better to have them protecting him, Sanchez told himself. Of the first members he initiated, one had fought with the guerillas, and another, with the army. They had their own stockpile of grenades. One of the first recruits in what became the MS str onghold of Arce, Manuel joined the gang, in 1989, when he was eleven years old. The war was entering its tenth and bloodiest year. It was what he had grown up with: waiting for his father to come home late because the guerillas were torching buses on the r oad; hiding under the bed while a battle raged in the local cemetery; listening while his aunts harangued his mother to get her children out of El Salvador. His family had left in waves, while Manuel remained behind with his mother. Their neighborhood had already fed its share of sons to the conflict, including soldiers like Ernesto “Smokey ” Miranda who fled to Los Angeles 8399_State of War_1P.indd 40 9/17/19 10:58 AM WILLIAM WHEELER COLUMBIA GLOBAL REPORTS and became founding members of MS -13. Manuel had b een 41 introduced to the gang by his cousin, whose parents had sent him back to El Salvador for a spell to get away from trouble in Los Angeles. Striding through the neighborhood under the wing of this tall, tattooed gangster, he felt strong. The older kids who had bullied him looked at him differently. A few months later, Manuel found a few deported gang members to jump him in. He told himself he didn ’t need to fear the gunfire anymore. Now he could shoot back. He jumped in two friends. They talked about how this was going to be something big, something that would leave a mark. Years later, he would see Mara Salvatrucha as a monster he helped create, a cancer he spread. But at the time he wanted to be the bravest gangster. The most tattooed. The evilest criminal. All of it. Like the young foot soldiers Sanchez and the other deported gang members were recruiting to their banner, Manuel was part of a new generation of mareros that would soon surpass their predecessors in sophistication and brutality. At the time, joining a gang was neither a way to make a living nor yet a fate one was born into along with his neighborhood. What Manuel and the rest were selling was family. There was a young homeless kid in the neighborhood who they called “Little Devil. ” His mother worked as a prostitute, and he would go around barefoot in ragged clothes. At first, they offered him food. When they decided to recruit him, they warned him of the dangers. But Little Devil replied that he had nothing to lose. They told him that he was not alone anymore and that they would love and protect him. One day, an older boy beat him up in the park. They gave the Little Devil a knife and returned en masse to confront him. Manuel and the others proclaimed that Little Devil was 8399_State of War_1P.indd 41 9/17/19 10:58 AM Chapter One – “A Large Scale Exodus” 42 STATE OF WAR part of the mara now. Then the young boy stabbed his attacker in front of his new brothers. Food, protection, belonging. In a poor and shell -shocked country where one -fifth of the population had been driven out, this proved a powerful combination. Their circles expanded rapidly, especially after the 1992 peace accord wa s signed —which put an end to the war and, presumably, the need for a haven from it in the United States. The U.S. began sending gang members back by the planeload. Manuel would get a call from an MS member in a California prison telling him the name of a h omie who was about to be deported and where to find him. Then Manuel would go meet him and help establish his clique. He discovered a formula. Soon Manuel was traveling widely, throwing parties to identify recent deportees, then setting up each as the lead er of a new clique. It became a franchise. The boundaries of membership were still fluid then. Deported members from a gang like the Barrio 18, whose rivalry with MS had carried over to Central America, might try to settle in their neighborhood, and in tho se early days would not be murdered outright. Some they chased away. Others were even allowed to stay as long as they became calmado , a status approximating retired. There were still ways out, short of death, for their own members then, too. One, who went by the name “El Mafioso, ” brought his mother to beg his friends to let him leave the gang. They snickered, but conceded. Their crime was still anything but organized. The mara was just a neighborhood crew, the guys on the corner their neighbors would cross the street to avoid. Having not yet discovered extortion, each was left to his own hustle and responsible for contributing $10 or $20 each week to the gang ’s coffers. But 8399_Sta te of War_1P.indd 42 9/17/19 10:58 AM WILLIAM WHEELER COLUMBIA GLOBAL REPORTS the country was awash with guns and men who had learned to 43 use them. Throughout the 1990s, former soldiers and guerillas alike joined the small bands of delinquents that speci alized in crime, like forgery or car theft, which proliferated after demobilization. Around 1998, according to Manuel, a colonel who saw by Manuel ’s tattoos and powerlifter -build that he was a marero , approached him with a job offer. The colonel was a part ner in a series of check -cashing centers, he said, and was forming an assault unit to rob them. He took Manuel to a local police academy for firearms training and introduced him to a few of the officers who would be part of his team. During his first robbe ry, Manuel wore a police uniform they loaned him for the job. Manuel ’s claim of military and law enforcement involvement in organized crime might seem like a sensational accusation to level at state institutions, but there is evidence from all over the wor ld to suggest that, in fact, the two go hand in hand. The lack of resolution to a civil war and the inability of a weak state to absorb and reintegrate rebels and militants is just the type of situation that fosters a cooperative and codependent military and criminal regime. According to Manuel and many mara and military sources I spoke to, over the 1990s, MS -13 thrived not despite but because of the state. 8399_
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