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More Gang Arrests as US Attorney General Visits El Salvador

LADB Article ID: 80392
Category/Department: El Salvador
Date: 2017-08-31
By: Benjamin Witte-Lebhar

Authorities in El Salvador are pushing ahead with their no-holds-barred crackdown on street gangs and point to a substantial dip in homicide numbers as evidence that the strategy is working. But the bloody crime war is also something of a political minefield for the Salvadoran leadership, which faces new questions about its past dealings with the maras, as the gangs are known locally. In its latest show of strength, Salvadoran police announced the arrests, on Aug. 15, of more than 70 alleged members of the notorious MS-13 street gang, also known as Mara Salvatrucha. El Salvador’s other leading mara is Barrio 18, which is divided into two factions: the Sureños and the Revolucionarios. The two offshoots share the same origin but now operate, for all intents and purposes, as separate gangs, analysts say. The sweep was part of a joint operation with law enforcement in the US, where authorities in the states of Ohio and Indiana nabbed 14 presumed MS-13 affiliates the same day. The coordinated arrests showcased a new level of partnership between the two countries and came less than three weeks after US Attorney General Jeff Sessions traveled to El Salvador personally to speak with his local counterpart, Attorney General Douglas Meléndez, and President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, among others.

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