The United States government Thursday added a
major Latin American drug network - the Mara Salvatrucha - to its
list of international crime organizations under economic sanctions.
The network, also known as MS-13, encompasses "at least" 30,000 members in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and other countries, the US Treasury Department said. One of its mottos is "mata, roba, viola, controla" (kill, steal, rape, control), officials said in a statement.
"MS-13 is an extremely violent and dangerous gang responsible for a multitude of crimes that directly threaten the welfare and security of US citizens as well as countries throughout Central America," said David Cohen, an official in the department.
MS-13 joins four other groups targeted by the US as major transnational criminal organizations (TCO): the Russian-led Brothers' Circle, Italy's Camorra, Mexico's Zetas and Japan's Yakuza.
The designation as a TCO is a legal step that enables the US to "strike at the financial heart" of MS-13, said John Morton, director of Homeland Security's immigration and customs enforcement division.
The M-13 network is "extremely active" within the US, with 8,000 members operating in more than 40 states and the District of Columbia.
"History has proven that we can successfully take down organized crime groups when we combine sophisticated investigative techniques with tough street level enforcement," Morton said.
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