Transnational Violence: The Example of the Mara 13

Violence is not something external to the societies in which it takes place. Its form, its intensity is directly linked to the economic, social, political and also technological possibilities.

The spread of the Mara Salvatrucha (also known as Mara 13) from a Los Angeles based Salvadoran street gang to a termtransnational organisation during the 1990ies offers an example of how contemporary forms of violence are influenced by one of the major processes of our time, which is globalisation. Members who were sent back to Salvador exported the US gang organisation and gang culture to central America.

After reading the introduction text below you will have to watch to short films on the Mara 13 and complete a test.

"MS-13 got started in Los Angeles in the 1980s by Salvadorans fleeing a civil war. Many of the kids grew up surrounded by violence (...). When [they] reached the mean streets of the L.A. ghetto, Mexican gangs preyed on them. The newcomers' response: to band together in a mara, or "posse," composed of salvatruchas, or "street-tough Salvadorans" (the "13" is a gang number associated with southern California). [In 1992, after the end of the Salvadoran civil war], the gang's ranks grew, adding former paramilitaries [who fled their country] with weapons training and a taste for atrocity. MS-13 eventually adopted a variety of rackets, from extortion to drug trafficking. When law enforcement cracked down and deported planeloads of members, the deportees quickly created MS-13 outposts in El Salvador and neighbouring countries like Honduras and Guatemala.

It's considered the fastest-growing, most violent and least understood of the nation's street gangs-in part because U.S. law enforcement has not been watching as closely as it might have. As authorities have focused their attention on the war against terrorism, MS-13 has proliferated. In the FBI's D.C. field office, the number of agents dedicated to gang investigations declined by 50 percent. "There was a definite shift in resources post-9/11 toward terrorism," says Michael Mason, assistant director in charge of that office. "As a result, we had fewer resources to focus on gangs."
" (Campo-Flores et al. 2005)

Click on the pictures in the right hand column in order to watch two excerpts of the documentary "Hijos de la Guerra" (Fuchs et al. 2006):

Use information from what you read above and the movies in order to complete the self-test in the right hand column:

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