US indicts top MS-13 leaders; an extradition request would be awkward for Bukele
The US Department of Justice has unsealed an indictment against the top leadership group of MS-13, the "Ranfla Nacional." Eleven of the 14 defendants are in prison in El Salvador from where they direct local and international operations of the gang.
(One initial question comes from reading this paragraph. Why is it written in the past tense? Is the government saying that MS-13 once did these things but no longer does them? As a lawyer working in US courts, I would use the present tense if I wanted to convince a judge that this gang was a clear and present danger).La Mara Salvatrucha (hereinafter "MS-1 3") was a transnational criminal organization with tens of thousands of members worldwide whose members engaged in "terrorist activity," as defined by Title 8, United States Code, Section I182(a)(3)(B)(iii) and (iv), and in "terrorism," as defined by Title 22, United States Code, Section 2656f(d)(2). MS-13 and its members used violence against law enforcement, military members, government officials and civilians in El Salvador in order to obtain concessions from the government of El Salvador, achieve political goals and retaliate for government actions against MS-13's members and leaders. MS-13's leaders also directed members to commit acts of violence, including murder, in the United States, In order to achieve its goals in El Salvador, the United States and elsewhere, MS-13's leaders recruited large numbers of members; established an organizational leadership structure; issued rules to govern MS-13's members; established military-style training camps; obtained weapons such as rifles, handguns, grenades, improvised explosive devices ("1EDs") and rocket launchers; negotiated with El Salvador government officials; engaged in public relations efforts; controlled neighborhoods; and directed acts of violence and murder in El Salvador, the United States and elsewhere. Further, MS-13 used its large membership in the United States to engage in criminal activities such as drug trafficking and extortion to raise money to support MS-13's terrorist activities and terrorism in El Salvador and elsewhere, and directed members in the United States to commit acts of violence, including murders, in furtherance of MS-13's goals and to retaliate against the United States for actions, or perceived actions, taken against MS-13 and its leaders.
Though the indictment unsealed on Thursday did not give details of specific crimes ordered by the defendants, it said they had established multiple branches on Long Island, in Queens and in Brooklyn, which committed murders, attempted murders, assaults and kidnappings.
“MS-13 is responsible for a wave of death and violence that has terrorized communities, leaving neighborhoods on Long Island and throughout the Eastern District of New York awash in bloodshed,” said Seth D. DuCharme, the acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District.
El Faro obtained copies of hundreds of prison reports confirming dozens of covert meetings between government officials and gang leaders since 2019, as well as intelligence reports detailing the outcomes of the encounters. Representatives of the executive branch and MS-13 agreed to the reduction in homicides, prison privileges, and long-term pledges tied to the results of congressional elections in 2021.