When in the 60s or 80s, South America was shaken by civil wars, waves of refugees moved northwards in the hope of getting into Mexico and the USA. When they arrived, they were treated with xenophobia and racism, which resulted in isolation and poverty. Cramped into poverty-stricken districts or ghettos, they had no chance to escape misery. At the local schools, the refugees’ children formed gangs in order to protect themselves from the attacks by natives and other gangs in general. Over time, the youth gangs formerly founded for the sake of self-protection became criminal bands dealing with drugs and arms.

When the civil wars ended, the USA started a program to deport the refugees back to their countries of origin. Back in their home countries, the gang members used the dysfunctional conditions defined by poverty, crime and the lack of perspectives to spread and expand their criminal business. Traffic in arms, drug trafficking, and human trafficking were and are still their main branches of business. Now, they furthermore started to smuggle their gang members into the USA in order to build a new power base in the land of opportunity. Nowadays, a new war is raging between the USA and the gang culture which the US-American government partially caused in the first place. The Maras, this is what they call themselves, are a serious threat. They are considered one of the most dangerous gang systems in the world because of their extreme brutality. On top of it all, they send their young contenders to the US army where they receive combat training. Those that come back are then trained killers.

The most famous and notorious Mara is the Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS13 and recognizable by their tattoos. According to their own statements, the MS13 have more than 100,000 members, of which some are even active in Europe. One of the main reasons why the MS13 are so scared and feared is certainly the methods with which they torture and kill their enemies and often innocent victims. As if shooting them is not violent and brutal enough, they are known to put those that stand in their way in acid baths. They cut them in pieces, decapitate them and exhibit the remains of their victims to the police and to the public to demonstrate their power and brutality.

Image: © Flickr Account Walking the Tracks