The move officially places MS-13 on a list of "significant transnational criminal organizations" which already includes the Brother's Circle rooted in Russia and Eastern Europe, Mexico's Zetas, Italy's Camorra and Japan's Yakuza.
It allows the United States to block any assets or property of MS-13-linked people or businesses, and prohibits any US citizens or US firms from doing any business with the group.
"This action positions us to target the associates and financial networks supporting MS-13, and gives law enforcement an additional tool in its efforts to disrupt MS-13's activities," said Cohen.Geoffrey Ramsey at InSight Crime looks at whether the designation is justified and appears to conclude that there's enough of a relationship between the DC's the Brotherhood and MS-13 members in El Salvador to warrant the designation.
I don't know enough about the criminal activities of the MS-13 in the US to really make a case one way or the other. What I do "know" is that prior to the March truce between the MS-13 and the 18th Streets gangs, most analysts seems to characterize the operations of the MS-13 as extremely decentralized. Members in the same country might not even know or recognize each other as members, let alone recognize the authority of some of the leadership. That characterization of how MS-13 operated in El Salvador does not appear to have been accurate given what we have learned about the more hierarchical nature of the group's activities these last six months.
Hey, but just because many seem to have been wrong about how the MS-13 operates in El Salvador doesn't mean that they are wrong about the relatively weak ties between MS-13 in El Salvador and MS-13 abroad.
In Los Angeles, many are worried about how the recent designation will impact non-gang affiliated Salvadorans and Salvadoran Americans and their businesses.
In L.A.'s Salvadoran community, some expressed concern that the federal designation would tarnish the larger Salvadoran community, which has been trying for years to escape the gang's shadow.
During the last 30 years, the El Salvadoran community has grown and has developed from refugees to legal residents to American citizens, said Francisco Rivera, the president of the National Central American Roundtable.
It's a problem if to be a Salvadoran immigrant is seen as being synonymous with being a criminal. It would stigmatize a community that has suffered a lot.What's interesting in Ramsey's article and in the Los Angeles based article is that it does really make sense to speak about a US-based MS-13 either. It's all local.
Wes McBride, executive director of the California Gang Investigators Assn., said the federal action might provide the most help to small and medium-size police agencies on the East Coast where MS-13 is growing the fastest. Some of these departments, he said, don't have the resources and experience in dealing with such gangs.
L.A. was their birthplace, but they are stronger on the East Coast than they are here, he said. (my italics)In El Salvador, President Mauricio Funes disagreed with the Treasury's Department analysis during his Saturday radio address. He said that the believes that the United States has overestimated the economic power of the MS-13.
"The problem has been overstated, not in the sense of considering MS as a criminal organization, but in the sense of overestimating the economic risk or financial risk that may involve the criminal actions of the MS and to put it on a par with other transnational criminal organizations as the Zetas or the Camorra in Italy, "he said.The quantity of dirty money that a group like the Zetas controls is in another league compared to the financial resources of the MS-13.
How much money the MS-13 controls is obviously an empirical question. Unfortunately, we just don't know to how much they have access.