In March 2014, the Civil Guard carried out Operation Cruasan, in which 35 alleged members of a dangerous international organization were arrested. In this way, the presence in Spain of one of the most harmful Latin mafias in the world was confirmed: the Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13 . As for the arrests, which were carried out in Alicante, they allowed two leaders of this dangerous organization to be imprisoned, but they also showed that the war between Latin gangs is a reality in Spain.

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What is the Mara Salvatrucha?
Although the gang originated in Los Angeles during the 1980s, they soon gained followers in the northern countries of Central America, especially in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. It may be that the origin of the term “salvatrucha” is due to a derogatory demonym derived from Salvadoran, since many of its members are originally from that country. Although the gang has experienced exponential growth in Central America , it has also spread to European countries such as Italy or Spain.
Gang members or mareros enter the gang willing to be part of something in society, driven by poverty or by the instinct of survival in the most dangerous neighborhoods of El Salvador or Peru. MostlyThey are dedicated to extortion and drug trafficking , in the same way as other Latino street gangs. They are rivals of other organizations such as the Latin Kings, the mara 18 or the Mexican drug cartels.
To enter the Mara Salvatrucha it is necessary to undergo an initiation rite , thus accepting the protection of the group. Such rites are often extremely violent, such as enduring a beating for 13 seconds (the 13 governs all aspects of this group) or sneaking into enemy territory to kill a rival gang member. The mara is governed by very strict codes and establishes its own language. For example, one way to identify an MS-13 gang member is through the sign of the horns or by looking at tattoos.

The return of the sea
MS-13 showed that it is back in a massive police operation in Los Angeles, birthplace of the Latino gang. In fact, Donald Trump has declared that the Latino mafia is a priority for the American police and that he will not stop until he sees the last of its members behind bars. However, this opinion is one of the problems that arise in ending the Mara Salvatrucha, and that is that overcrowding is such in Central American prisons that the gang has taken control of them, exercising a power greater than that of the officials themselves. from the prison Eme survives in jail.
Tattoos, one of the hallmarks of the band. | Image from: The new newspaper.

The Mara Salvatrucha in Spain
In Spanish territory,the Civil Guard has detected some 20 groups (also called “cliques”) consolidated in Barcelona, ​​Tarragona, Gerona, Madrid and Alicante, although there have been signs of activity in Canceres, Melilla, Castellon, Lleida and Valencia. The social climate in Spain is very different from that of their countries of origin, so serious events rarely occur. However, these groups are implicated in various crimes of extortion and trafficking and do not hesitate to attack members of rival gangs, either with knives or firearms.
On December 31, 2013, in the middle of New Year’s Eve, representatives of five cliques met in a local Alicante for the creation of Program 34: a roadmap for the union of the Latin gang in the same organization dependent on Savatrucha 13, a branch of the gang in El Salvador. Although Operation Cruasan frustrated the plans of the gang members, MS-13 was not completely dismantled. “He is trying to settle in Spain,” reported the Civil Guard .

The confession of Venus Romero
To better understand the violent nature of the Mara Salvatrucha, we collect the testimony of Venus Romero Iraheta, a young 18-year-old gang member who was arrested in Fairfax County (Virginia, USA). Iraheta confessed to having beenthe author of the death of a 15-year-old teenager whose name was Damaris Reyes Rivas. “You’re going to remember me until the day we meet again in hell, don’t forget my name,” she told him before stabbing him several times in the neck.
The young murderer, with apparent coldness, assures the police that she does not remember how many times she stabbed the teenager, although they were “about 13”. The motive for the crime was that Reyes was involved in the murder of her boyfriend, who was also part of the Mara Salvatrucha. Asked if she would have any regrets in the future, she forcefully shakes her head.
Latin street gangs continue to be a scourge shaking Central America and seeking their niche in Spanish-speaking countries and the United States. The young people consider that it is a way of escaping poverty, an untouchable family that will save them from dying in the streets, although the truth is on the opposite side. For the moment, the education and integration of the most disadvantaged groups continues to be an alternative to police action. It is useless to send the gang member behind bars if, once in jail, the gang continues to control everything.

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