All posts by miverson

MS-13: From Gang to Government

Mara Salvatrucha, known as MS-13, first began as a youth gang in Los Angeles in the 1980s and was made up of immigrants from El Salvador escaping the civil war. However, as gang violence increased, the 1996 immigration law sent thousands of MS-13 members back to El Salvador. In search of safety and acceptance, the members stayed together and their power grew rapidly as they took advantage of the weak governments in the northern triangle. As MS-13 expanded their territory they began to search for forms of income, entering the business of drug, gun, and even human smuggling. Bringing people into the U.S. illegally quickened the expansion of their territory and made it even harder for law enforcement to control the crimes. Currently, MS-13 is prevalent in at least 42 states but, it still remains the most influential and destructive in El Salvador.
In the past two years, it’s clear MS-13 has taken a dramatic shift in its leadership style and local influence. Previously, MS-13 had been playing a minor role in the drug trade and focusing primarily on gang rivalries but, as they become increasingly more independent their impact has changed. MS-13 acts now as hired hitmen for cartels and have begun selling larger amounts of cocaine in their local territories. This increase in territory and power has led MS-13 to the realization of the potential in their political influence.
MS-13 has recently started collecting money from local businesses and services for protection money. They focus mainly on collecting from bus services, and as they expand the number of buses they exploit their territory also expands. The lucrative part about this business is that the bus drivers also receive extensive government subsidies.
Another key factor leading to this realization of MS-13’s newfound political influence was the truce between gangs in El Salvador and the concessions granted by Salvadoran government-sanctioned negotiators in 2012. Anonymous leaders within MS-13 state that after this truce many have been approached by several political figures who are offering support for laws in exchange for votes in the gang controlled territories. These actions are furthering the political corruption in El-Salvador and increasing MS-13’s role in the weakened government.

Is El Sisi to Much of a Sissy to Embrace Democracy?

In the past few years Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Egypt’s president, has faced the largest opposition since his election in May 2014. The opposition has been sparked by a failed counterterrorism strategy and a sale of land to Saudi Arabia for cash. How he’s handling it provides a concerning answer for many Egyptians. His authoritarian approach is beginning to draw many similarities with Mubarak’s Egypt in the 2000s, full of corruption and disparities.
El-Sisi’s rise to power began in 2012 when he was appointed to commander-in-chief in the armed forces by then President Morsi, but when widespread protests occurred against Morsi in 2013, Sisi declared Morsi had 48 hours to meet the demand of the people. Morsi however, did not meet the demand and Egypt’s military removed him from power. It was then that El-Sisi was sworn-in as deputy prime minister and later won the election with 96% of the vote.
On Palm Sunday 2017 an attack on a church killing 45 people raised questions about El-Sisi’s commitment to fighting terrorism. El-Sisi’s motivation behind his counterterrorism strategy goes far beyond its intention. He uses it to silence his enemies of which include, activists, journalists, human rights organizations, and businessmen who oppose him. A three month national emergency law simply acts as a cover for brutal practices against the opposition forces. This exploitation of the recent attacks not only fuels the advancement of his political agenda but incites terrorism.
Khalid Ali has become a key figure of opposition of El-Sisi’s actions. Ali ran against El-Sisi during 2012 election, but in May he was detained after suggestions he would run again in the 2018 election. If Ali is convicted he would be unable to run, eliminating El-Sisi’s worry of once again defending the controversial island transfer with Saudi Arabia. The islands were crucial for Egypt to defend the Gulf of Aqaba and almost half of Egyptians say the islands belonged to Egypt. Ali’s was among dozens who have protested against the government, and the charges on which many were detained proved risible. El-Sisi’s motives clearly point toward his desire to win the next election in authoritarian manner.
So, is there anyone who is supporting El-Sisi’s efforts? President Donald Trump of the U.S states, “that we are very much behind President al-Sisi”. Trump has also praised the ways in which he has taken control over the country. This backing creates a real problem. El-Sisi sees this as permission to continue the suppression of dissent. In return, El-Sisi expressed his admiration of Trump’s personality and subtly criticised the departed Obama administration, since this had been his first visit since his election.
In addition to targeting activists and dissidents, El-Sisi has begun cracking down on NGOs and websites. In June the government shut down several independent news websites in an attempt to regulate the amount of opposition being circulated in the media. For NGOs, El-Sisi now has the final say of what NGOs do and how they are funded. The government claims the organizations are “destabilizing national unity”. This raises concerns not only about his secret agenda, but now victims of human rights violations are no longer getting the help or representation they need.
As El-Sisi continues to restrict the freedoms of Egyptian citizens, motivated by Trump’s support and his own political agenda, his ulterior motives behind all his actions become increasingly clear. He has fallen into the same authoritarian leadership of the dictator Mubarak who the Egyptian people overthrew in the first place.