Wednesday, February 23, 2005

US and El Salvador cooperate on gangs -- but no terrorism link

Traci Carl of the Associated Press writes an article about the recent three day anti-gang conference held with US and Central American law enforcement authorities in San Salvador. The conference included a "made for TV" round-up of suspected gang members:

Shirtless, handcuffed and bathed in the searchlights of a helicopter, 14 newly arrested Central American gang members were lined up along a chain-link fence Wednesday and studied by officials from the FBI, Homeland Security and California police looking for help with gang problems back home.

As armed SWAT officers stood guard, the Americans grilled the gang members on their U.S. ties and snapped photos of familiar tattoos, the start of a cross-border effort to stop the gangs from moving between Central American and U.S. communities.

Some 50 officials from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and the United States - including nearly 20 U.S. federal agents - were taking part in a three-day conference that included talking to reformed gang members, visiting jails and receiving a behind-the-scenes look at El Salvador's so-called super-hard hand against gangs - including the pre-dawn raid in this town just outside San Salvador.

Although Salvadoran President Tony Saca started the conference with a statement that he could not rule out the possibility that the gangs were linking themselves with international terrorists, the law enforcement experts at the conference said there is no evidence of such links.

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