US Attorney General Jeff Sessions [official profile] said [press release] Tuesday that the Trump administration will have “zero tolerance for gang violence” from transnational criminal organizations such as MS-13, in remarks made to the Organized Crime Council and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The gang Mara Salvatrucha [InSight Crime backgrounder], or MS-13, was formed in the 1980’s in Los Angeles neighborhoods, and now has a prominent presence throughout many Central American countries. According to Sessions, there are over 10,000 members of MS-13 across the US. He went on to say: “Transnational criminal organizations like MS-13 represent one of the gravest threats to American safety. These organizations enrich themselves by pedaling poison in our communities, trafficking children for sexual exploitation and inflicting horrific violence in the communities where they operate.”
Widespread violence at the hands of criminal organizations such as MS-13 has troubled Central America for years. In November 2015, a UN humans rights expert urged [JURIST report] the government of Honduras to increase its efforts to put a stop to an “internal displacement epidemic” caused by organized and gang violence throughout the country, as well as a failing criminal justice system. Earlier that year, El Salvador’s Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that the country’s street gangs and those who support them financially would be classified as terrorist groups.