The US press has run several stories in the past few days about Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, the Central American gang with Salvadoran roots which has spread throughout the United States and other areas. Teresa Borden of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, writes a story about the impact of the gangs in El Salvador. The description of the problem is familiar, but Borden also includes a little description of the Saca government's new "Plan Mano Amiga":
But the criticism also has led Saca's government to begin a new effort that, along with the punitive measures, also makes a stab at rehabilitation and job placement for former gang members. It is called Plan Mano Amiga ("Operation Helping Hand"), and [Interior Minister] Figueroa said it aims to incorporate a safety net of government institutions, churches, associations, private enterprise and non-governmental organizations to rehabilitate gang members and give them jobs.
When asked about a budget, Figueroa said that because the Mano Amiga efforts are so broad-based and involve so many different entities, a budget estimate would be difficult to come by.
Those efforts are likely to take much longer to measure, anyway, and gangs in El Salvador will not go away while the larger problem of unemployment remains dire.
"The killings will continue, the gangs will continue," Aguilar said. "In El Salvador, poor people and people who are not of high rank do not matter much in the world.
The Washington Post meanwhile has an article about the growing presence of the Central American maras in Mexico. Mexican immigration authorities who are already overwhelmed by the flow of illegal immigrants trying to make their way to the United States now must deal as well with the very violent gangs who prey on the immigrants and terrorize local populations. (Thanks to David Holiday for the tip).
Finally, Reuters runs an article about the presence of Mara Salvatrucha in the United States. Nothing new in this article, except that it continues to repeat the speculation that al-Qaeda is teaming up with the Central American gangs, although quoting a Department of Homeland Security spokesman saying that they know of no such links. See my earlier post on this subject.