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From Barrio Street Gangs to Transnational Criminal Organizations A Qualitative Analysis of Eighteenth Street and Mara Salvatrucha I Research Topic Recently the F B I and other local government agencies have become particularly watchful of international criminal organizations which drew their origins from domestic street gangs Two in particular have expanded their status toward that of transnational criminal organizations They are the Eighteenth Street gang Calle Dieciocho and the Mara Salvatrucha gang Both are originally from Los Angeles California an area most commonly known as the Pico Union area But today cliques subsets of member gangs can now be found anywhere between the U S Mexico and Central America Vigil 1998 p 92 This expansion has resulted predominantly because of immigrant deportation but also due to the gangs recruitment policies and drug smuggling activities The sudden growth of these local street gangs into global networks continues to undermine authorities as to their power and most importantly the infrastructure within the gangs The consequences which may result from this power growth lie anywhere between an increase of narcotics trafficking to the creation of another global terrorist threat In order to decipher future consequences of these gangs further analysis must be made as to how they once began II Background In the sixties the Eighteenth Street gang was founded in Los Angeles California The initial reason for creating Eighteenth Street stemmed out of the racism Latinos held for each other Before Eighteenth Street came to be the central gang in the area the Clanton Street gang only allowed the membership of Mexican Americans Many illegal immigrants who wanted to join were unable to because Clanton wanted only second generation Mexicans Consequently when the Eighteenth Street began it was composed of both illegal immigrants as well as Mexican Americans Members recruited into this gang have been known to be within their pre adolescent years Further the gang utilizes fear tactics in combination with camaraderie to keep their members from leaving the gang Two decades later during the eighties Eighteenth Street had become a well respected gang which had grown in membership At the same time Salvadorans were seeking refuge in the United States because of a civil war which had begun in their country Arriving into poor neighborhoods many of these Central American immigrants became attracted to the power that other Latino gang members held Ironically after having had the same experience years earlier Eighteenth Street was not willing to embrace this new culture As a result the Mara Salvatrucha gang came into existence Many of the new Salvadoran immigrants were members of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front a militant group composed of community members which were once trained fighters while in the Salvadoran civil war Valdez 2005 2 Moreover today some suggest that guerilla tactics implemented by current Salvatrucha members took their origin from previous militant training For instance the killing of rival gang members through the use of machetes serve as ways to intimidate the public as well as create a reputation for themselves as criminal organizations rather than street hoodlums Having the rivalry innate from the beginning both gangs have shown a phenomenal potential for expansion Massive deportation of gang members has become a primary reason why Eighteenth Street and Mara Salvatrucha have been able flourish as local gangs and expand into international criminal organizations According to an article in U S Newswire there are approximately 800 000 members currently operating in the U S and 70 000 in Central America Stratman 2005 3 During the nineties the U S government was responsible for the massive deportation of immigrants into Latin America a policy known as Operation Gatekeeper as a response to an influx of immigrants from the south Among those deported were gang members and criminals with long histories of violence As a solution deportation failed because it became a simple matter of relocation as opposed to rehabilitation which would have deterred the perpetuation of deviance by these individuals Furthermore expansion of U S gang members into Latin America provided an excellent opportunity to recruit new members from local poor and marginalized Latin American youth This opportunity also offered a wider access to resources such as arms and drugs which ultimately paved the way to lucrative business ventures In addition to deportation the smuggling of illegal goods across international borders as well as the unique use of technology for recruitment have become the current core resource through which gangs have survived and expanded globally The Eighteenth Street and Mara Salvatrucha gangs have been regarded as experts when it comes to crossing international borders According to an article by Stephen Johnson there have been remarks of AlQaeda having met with gang members in order to converse about smuggling arms into the U S Johnson 2005 11 Having such a valuable asset at their reach such as smuggling it is no wonder the drug market is one of the main sources through which gangs exist It is not only a part of their culture but it is also a way for gangs to make money For gangs this lucrative business translates into weapons and authority within neighborhoods But more importantly money allows for recruitment by way of traveling Traveling outside of their turf has allowed for rapid exponential growth Lastly expansion has become much easier through the use of the Internet Changing along with the times these gangs have embraced new forms of communication Through the World Wide Web gangs interact with each other from the privacy of their own homes Papachristos 2005 18 Using their own forms of cryptograms members do not have to worry about government interception Seeing how the formula for expansion is conceivable it is essential to recognize how these gangs are interconnected It is known that cliques of gangs are only a small part of the organization because they have been found to keep contact with each other Many times when members are incarcerated they relay messages with members form other countries Also there have been mentions of meeting between cliques Generally much of their ties can be seen through the tattoos For example members of Mara Salvatrucha differentiate among themselves through insignias such as sur or sureno which means south or

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