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The MS13’s subservience afforded the gang more protection in the streets and in prison.
In return, the MS provided hitmen and paid the Mafia regular quotas from their criminal proceeds.
It also added the number 13, the position M occupies in the alphabet, to their name. By the mid-1990s, partly as a way to deal with the gangs and partly as a product of the get-tough immigration push toward the end of the presidency of Bill Clinton, the US government began a program of deportation of foreign-born residents convicted of a wide range of crimes.
This enhanced deportation policy vastly increased the number of gang members being sent home to El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and elsewhere.
Their activities have helped make the Northern Triangle — Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras — the most violent place in the world that is not at war.
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While the Mexican gangs reigned in the local underworld, the war-hardened immigrants quickly organized themselves into competing groups, the strongest of which was called the Mara Salvatrucha Stoners or MSS.
The orgins of the name are still disputed, but “mara” is a Central American term for gang. “Trucha” is a slang term for “clever” or “sharp.” Salvatruchas was also the name given to the locals who fought against William Walker, an ambitious businessman and proponent of slavery from the United States who tried to subdue various parts of Central America with a small army in the 1850s.
The Mara Salvatrucha, or MS13, is perhaps the most notorious street gang in the Western Hemisphere.