More than 3,800 suspected gang members charged in U.S. and Central America

By Daniel Uria
More than 3,800 suspected gang members charged in U.S. and Central America
An unidentified member of the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, gang remains in his cell block in Criminal Sampedrano prison in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on May 28, 2013. More than 3,800 individuals, including 70 in the United States, were faced with criminal charges as part of a six-month international operation targeting the MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs in the U.S., El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. File Photo by STR/EPA

Sept. 30 (UPI) -- More than 3,800 suspected gang members were charged in an international operation targeting gangs in the United States and Central America, the U.S. Attorney General's Office said.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco on Friday shared the results of the six-month operation targeting members of violent street gangs MS-13 and Barrio 18, or 18th Street, initiated in March by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Attorneys General of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.


The U.S. Department of Justice said that more than 70 individuals were charged in the U.S. in California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio and Virginia.

"Increasingly, transnational organized crime - and its attendant violence - touches U.S. communities, leaving devastation in its wake," Blanco said on Friday, according to the Miami Herald.

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President Donald Trump promised to "destroy" MS-13 and other gangs like it during a speech in front of police officers in Long Island, N.Y. in July.

"Together we're going to restore safety to our streets and peace to our communities and we're going to destroy the vile, criminal cartel MS-13 and many other gangs," Trump said.


MS-13 formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s as an influx of Salvadoran immigrants fled civil war in Central America. Barrio 18 has a similar origin, with its roots based in Honduras.

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Blanco said information was not readily available regarding whether the 70 suspected gang members detained in the U.S. were immigrants.

El Salvador's Attorney General Douglas Melendez Ruiz and other officials said it was clear that U.S. gang members work closely with their Central American counterparts

"Gang members in El Salvador are giving orders to commit crimes in the United States of America. We also have evidence that MS-13 members based in the United States are giving orders to commit crimes in El Salvador," he said. "They have created a hierarchy such that orders are carried out regardless of borders.

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In Central America, law enforcement officers charged 284 accused gang members in Guatemala and arrested 12 suspected MS-13 money launderers in Honduras. El Salvador filed 3,477 criminal charges, resulting in more than 1,400 arrests.

"We conducted simultaneous operations coordinated among all of our countries impacting the leadership structure of the gangs and with an emphasis on the gang cliques which are generating the most revenues and with the strongest transnational ties," Melendez Ruiz said.


The attorneys general and other officials said they hoped the operation would serve as a basis for future collaborative efforts against transnational organized crime.

"This has an end because we're working together," Blanco said. "These gang members in Central America are not going to have a place to hide. They can't hide here and they can't hide there either."

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