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July 11th, 2006
18 with a Bullet
Timeline: Gangs, El Salvador, and United States
1960s The 18th Street Gang is formed in the Pico Union district of Los Angeles. Sometime later, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) is formed, possibly as a splinter group. The two gangs become rivals.
1980 Civil war begins in El Salvador, lasting 12 years and claiming an estimated 75,000 lives. Honduras and Guatemala suffer similar bloody wars throughout this period.
1980s Central Americans flee the violence in their home countries for U.S. ghettos, finding themselves without work and needing protection from the local Mexican gangs that despise and threaten them. Ranks of the maras (gangs) swell in the U.S.
1992 Peace accords end the Salvadoran civil war. Over the next several years the U.S. will begin to deport Salvadoran gang members to their home country in large numbers. The gangs grow to play a large role in the drug trade in the U.S., and develop a reputation for brutal violence.
1996 The U.S. passes the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 on September 30. A broad piece of legislation aimed at reducing illegal immigration, the Act rapidly increases the pace of deportation of gang members.
1997 The son of Honduran President Ricardo Maduro is kidnapped and murdered by gang members. The Honduran government announces a zero-tolerance policy on gangs.
1998 According to statistics from the Department of Homeland Security, more than 34,000 criminals are deported over the next seven years to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
2003 A study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimates the cost of violence to El Salvador in 2003 at $1.7 billion: 11.5% of its GDP.
2004 Murder rates are 46 per 100,000 people in Honduras; 41 in El Salvador, and 35 in Guatemala. In contrast, the the U.S. murder rate is 5.7 per 100,000.

In Honduras, MS-13 members attack a public bus with automatic weapons, killing 28 people.
In response to popular outrage against gang violence, Tony Saca is voted into power in El Salvador on “mano super dura” or “ultra-hard hand” anti-gang platform. Platform includes policies such as arresting suspects for “gang-style” tattoos or clothing, and results in over 16,000 arrests. Gang members come to dominate Salvadoran and other Central American prisons.

2005 In the U.S., Operation Community Shield arrests 103 gang members in February and March, and another 582 in August.

In Honduras, a brief truce between the gangs ends when some 35 members of Mara 18 are killed by MS-13 members in a coordinated attack across several prisons.

2006 Statistics from the U.S. National Drug Intelligence Center estimate up to 10,000 active MS-13 members in up to 30 U.S. states.

Some 25,000 gang members are estimated to be active in El Salvador, which averages 10 homicides per day, and suffers from prisons which operate at double capacity.

Sources: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; CIA World Factbook; NEWSHOUR WITH JIM LEHRER; THE BOSTON GLOBE; THE VANCOUVER PROVINCE; THE ECONOMIST.
  • Gerri Michalska

    “Many of the gang members grew up without their parents” and that is the problem!

    This is what immigrants pick up when the come to the US – black gang cultute: beating up and killing people. They don’t pick up something good, no. This shows how the majority of the human race is composed of idiots who do Monkey See Monkey Do. Even though the behavior is immoral, evil and sick they do it because that is what sick black people do in the US. All followers with a pea brain. No leaders and no intelligence. Just follow the crowd, evil idiots going through the motions. Really sick!

  • dina

    I saw your nova report last night as I do every Tuesday night, but this one really struck a cord in my heart as I am Salvadorian and have had to watch the youth of my country slowly disintegrate to what is commonly known in the world as “hoodlums.” I understand both sides of the story in this segment. Although I never was a product of the civil war that led these youngsters into such a destructive lifestyle, I did witness its evolution. btw, the Mara was not created in the 60’s but rather in the 80’s when a large segment of the peasant population came to Los Angeles to get away from the violence bringing with them their youngsters to give them a better way of life and the youngsters ended up being bullied by 18 street gangsters. Since they had no other resource but to stick together and protect themselves in numbers, they ran around in groups and referred to themselves as MARAs which later evolved to Mara Salvatrucha. Those Salvadorians that were already living in United States had already been exposed to 18 street gang and others. Once the deportation of all gang member whether legal or illegal started, anyone of Central American decent was sent to their country of origin. Now the bullies 18 street gangsters found themselves in an unknown country and as the once innocent youngsters whom they had terrorized before had grouped in numbers for protection, now 18 street gangsters started to do the same. Hence, the exportation of a united state infestation had begun.

  • sandrita mason

    Los Angeles is a base for MS-13 and MS-18 in the United States and both gangs have a strong presence in the L.A. neighborhood of Cypress Park. In February this year, there was a fierce gun battle between gang members and Los Angeles police in Cypress Park. A few months later, 500 heavily armed police and federal agents raided that same neighborhood to takedown scores of gang members. And, just a few days ago, a deputy sheriff, who lived with his parents in Cypress Park, was gunned down there. MS-13 and MS-14 have spread to other states; their vicious criminal activities, as witnessed here in L.A., will no doubt spread to other states as well. A complete story of El Salvador’s gangs has to include the U.S., where MS-13 and MS-14 continue cycling to and from El Salvador.

  • Charmayne Cousins

    Perhaps Gerri should have watched the entire show before commenting on this subject. I would almost agree with his/her statement except for the idea that it seems to be slightly biased. Being a product of your environment doesn’t discriminate. Black, white, hispanic, purple or green.

  • sandrita mason

    Sorry, I made two typos in my previous post. I meant to type “MS-18″. There is no MS-14 as far as I know.

  • sapien

    The word civilized just has to do with how far humanity has come, I poverty and war in the urban jungle is just part of the evolution of society, part of the class stuggle that will shape the world of tommorow. The war on drugs and zero tolerance even the police are just thigs put in place to make the middle class feal more comfotable they can never stop coperate crime, or the poor people from trying to free themselves through it. Your smarter than that the system isnt made for people to get wealthy, we need to stop passing judgment on eachother and start loving, after that the revolution to reshape the world to reflect the needs of us as a whole instead of just the elite.

  • lori

    yes, i have heard of all of this below

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