In El Salvador, there are many rich and poor neighborhoods with whole different atmospheres when you walk down the street. You are taught when you are little to not wander through areas where you are not familiar, especially areas where a lot of crimes occur. However, there is a link between poor neighborhoods and crime because gangs are more likely to develop in these types of areas. Emerging in a poverty-stricken town in Los Angeles, MS-13 is currently the most dangerous and notorious gang in the entire Western Hemisphere. MS-13 might give the impression as a well organized gang, but in reality each clique operates independently. The group has no overall leader, no way of escaping being a member of MS-13 after joining, and they are extremely violent.
In countries where democratic governments are in authority, there is an overall administration in charge of most activities that happen in the country. However, MS-13 differs from this because they have cliques in each area they control with hierarchies and leaders of their own. These cliques act as shadow governments themselves and MS-13 is a predatory gang where they kill and gain money for their own benefit. MS-13 works in the United States, the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras), Mexico and Canada with over 280,000 members. With so many people, it would be extremely difficult to have one leader keeping track of everything that happens with each person within the gang. This factor keeps the gang disorganized and separate it from governments.
Normally, when you enter politics or join any other organization, you can quit easily most of the time. On the other hand withdrawing from MS-13 is almost impossible. If a member decides to leave, it would lead to death. Once a new member joins, they are totally committed to the cause with no escape, and to signify their membership and loyalty they have elaborate body art. On top of this, each new affiliate must kill someone to join MS-13. Clearly, this is not like an average government, and MS-13 is much more serious when affiliates join them.
MS-13 breaks the boundaries of an ordinary democratic government because they are extremely violent and have “no regard for human life.” Violence is a key aspect to MS-13’s culture and one way they use it is to gain money, to be feared, and sometimes for no particular reason. For example, they used a 19-year-old woman to lure another teenager into the woods and then members of MS-13 killed him by stabbing him multiple times. MS-13 is brutal with a lot of teenagers even though they have no affiliation with MS-13. Also, MS-13 uses violence to intimidate and coerce the governments in Central America. In an average government, the people are not centralized around violence to function, but MS-13’s main purpose of using it is to be feared and gain money.
Even though MS-13 is not organized with an official leader, they still give the impression of being organized. They carry out their tasks in their own cliques with individual leadership in each area around the Western Hemisphere. The leadership in the groups establish that members must be killed if they want to leave, making the affiliate’s commitment more serious. Once people join the gang, they are expected to be violent and sympathize with no one else. MS-13 achieves their goals using all these qualities and characteristics while a government accomplishes its duties in more peaceful, organized ways. Governments and gangs can be similar, but in this case MS-13 is not similar to a government structure. MS-13 is the most dangerous gang in the Western Hemisphere, so it is essential to keep this lesson in mind when you remember what you learned when you were little: Never walk down a street you aren’t familiar with.