Category: Reed Johnson

MS-13 gangs linked with L.A., Salvador in National Geographic documentary

 Mara salvatrucha

MS-13, shorthand for "Mara Salvatrucha," is one of the world's most lethal gangs, with a power and reach that exceeds that of some national governments. It has ravaged the tiny Central American country of El Salvador, and its influence extends into neighboring Honduras and elsewhere.

But MS-13 isn't a homegrown Salvadoran phenomenon. It's an export from Los Angeles, where many gang members were initiated as adolescents and young adults, before being deported back to El Salvador and taking their violent methods with them. Today, as depicted in the new documentary "Gang Warfare USA," airing at 8 Monday night on the National Geographic Channel, MS-13 members in El Salvador work with their U.S. counterparts to export violence to cities as remote from L.A. as Greensboro, N.C.

Marc Shaffer, the film's director, producer and writer, and his crew detail the disturbing story of how a restaurant murder in Greensboro eventually led investigators to L.A. and El Salvador. Along the way, they uncover how Uncle Sam's deportation of MS-13 members to El Salvador ironically has been making the gang even stronger and more globalized than before.

In interviews with current and former gang members, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, attorneys and others, the documentary exposes that many gang members deported to El Salvador, where economic prospects are bleak, soon turn right around and cross back into the United States.

Meanwhile, the gang's presence in El Salvador continues to undermine the rule of law in that war-torn country: El Salvador, with a population of only 6 million, has a murder rate 10 times that of the United States, and officials estimate that 70 percent of those murders are gang-related. As one assistant U.S. attorney tells the filmmakers, "We set up the conditions by which MS-13 flourished."

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— Reed Johnson 

Photo: A member of Mara Salvatrucha is detained in San Salvador. Credit: Roberto Escobar / European Pressphoto Agency.

mun2 lists best cities for young Latinos: Boston tops L.A.

Mun2 
Universal City-based mun2, the bilingual, youth-oriented cable TV network, has ranked the top cities for young Latinos and Latinas, and the list is a bit of a shocker. Boston, a city usually associated with frost-bite and Puritanism, tops Los Angeles (ranked No. 6 overall), the most Spanish-speaking city north of Mexico City. Equally suprising is that Miami, the self-styled capital of Caribbean Latin America, didn't make the list at all.

So how did mun2 explain its ranking of Beantown as the No. 1 choice for young Latinos to "live, work, play and fall in love"? It has a lot to do with Boston's large population of singles, which is mainly due to its huge number of students attending the city's dozens of colleges and universities. According to mun2, citing U.S. census data, 40% of Boston's population is between 18 and 34. Boston also got high marks for diversity and low unemployment.

In remarks on its website, mun2 described Los Angeles this way: "One of the oldest 'Latino cities,' L.A. ranks high when it comes to income growth over time, and solidly when it comes to a high percentage of singles, low crime and opportunities for young entrepreneurs."

Updated at 6:32 p.m.: Jose Marquez, vice-president of Interactive Strategy for mun2, explains that the reason Miami wasn't included in the list is that the rankings included only those cities with populations greater than 500,000. Although metropolitan Miami has more than 5 million people, the city proper is about 400,000.

Here's the complete list:

1. Boston
2. Austin
3. Denver
4. New York
5. Phoenix
6. Los Angeles
7. Dallas
8. Chicago
9. San Diego
10. Tucson
11. Houston
12. San Jose
13. San Antonio
14. El Paso
15. Las Vegas

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-- Reed Johnson

Photo: mun2 personalities Yasmin Deliz, left, Yarel Ramos and Melissa "Crash" Barrera on the set. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

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