The brutal and largely illegal immigrant filled MS-13 street gang recently became a primary target of the Trump Administration — and rightfully so. However, Trump promised to target and go after Mexican cartels and has yet to actually do so.
1. MS-13 are the hired help and act as foot soldiers for Mexican cartels or Mexico-based transnational criminal organizations; they are not the top dogs.
This fact is best shown in news from 2014 involving MS-13 gang members and a methamphetamine stash house in St. Paul, Minnesota. In that case, a Mexican Sinaloa Cartel stash house had been robbed in the city of St. Paul. MS-13 gang members flew from Los Angeles, California, and kidnapped two Minnesota teens. MS-13 tortured the teens in an effort to obtain information on who might have robbed the Sinaloa Cartel stash house. The significant factor here is that MS-13 were acting as the hired help for the Mexican cartel; they were not acting on their own direction or for their own interests. They were working for the masterminds in the Sinaloa Cartel. In addition to in-depth Breitbart reporting on MS-13, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime also illuminates the relationship between Mexican cartels and MS-13: the cartels are apex criminals and MS-13 are “mara,” or street gangs employed by the Mexican cartels.
2. Going after MS-13 gives the appearance of going after Mexican cartels while avoiding the actual repercussions of doing so.
Going after Mexican cartels entails possibly going after Mexico’s president and many of Mexico’s state governors, city mayors, and other officials — as the line between Mexican politicians and narco-cartels does not exist. The diplomatic consequences would be huge and it is far easier to appear that the administration is keeping its promises by going after a largely Central American-based street gang like MS-13 than actually going after Mexico’s elite. Even though MS-13 is a Central American-based street gang, most Americans would likely not know this and would not distinguish between Central American-based, loosely-affiliated crime groups and the well-organized Mexico-based crime groups who actually run the show.
3. Official talk of MS-13 being designated as a terror group allows the Trump Administration to look tough on crime from south of the border while avoiding the diplomatic consequences of designating Mexican cartels as terror groups.
Several Mexican cartels, specifically Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel, have crossed the line from being just narco-trafficking organizations and have actually obtained direct and official political power. They have near-complete control of certain regions of Mexico. This is most true in Tamaulipas, a state immediately south of Texas. They use targeted assassinations against officials, have camera systems set up in border cities to monitor the populace, and they have “links” in nearly all news outlets who decide what can and cannot be published. They are paramilitary groups that use extreme violence to keep political control of regions of Mexico. These groups hire the street thugs of MS-13 at times, but MS-13 are simply the hired help. Designating these Mexican cartels, or factions thereof, as foreign terror organizations would mean that many of Mexico’s leaders would be in trouble for their participation in such groups. Governors would go down and possibly even the current Mexican president. Singling out MS-13 allows the Trump Administration to look tough and send a message, but to avoid actually going at the root of the problem and facing the consequences for doing so. At best it risks creating diplomatic difficulties with a small Central American nation while avoiding making Mexico’s cartel-connected elite angry.
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