The likelihood of collaboration between Central American transnational gangs and terrorist organizations
Poveda, Carlos A.
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This thesis focuses on the issue of the growing threat of transnational criminal gangs spreading throughout the Central America and the United States (U.S.). More specifically, the thesis addresses the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang, examining how this particular gang emerged as a formidable public security threat. A common misconception holds transnational gangs like MS-13 emerged in Central America; however, the truth is these gangs have their origins in the gang lifestyle found in the U.S. Since the early 1990's, MS-13 and similar transnational gangs have established criminal networks specializing in drug, arms, goods, and human smuggling. These operations pose a grave threat to U.S. national security: intelligence reports surfaced in 2004 indicating a possible meeting between an al-Qaeda lieutenant and members of MS-13. Due to these reports, U.S. agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Immigration and Customs Enforcement are among the agencies that have started to work closely in monitoring transnational gang activity in the U.S. and the western hemisphere region. While MS-13 does not hold any anti-American sentiment, the gang will work with the highest bidder without hesitation. Therefore, the thesis addresses the organized crime-terrorist organization debate within the academic and intelligence communities, adding how globalization serves to facilitate such a link. The thesis helps to explain how current Central American legislation is forcing transnational gangs to go "underground" in order to survive. Findings show the need to switch towards a more multi-faceted strategy in order to ensure long-term solutions to the proliferation of transnational gangs not obtainable with current heavy-handed methods while concurrently reducing the risk of a terrorist-transnational gang link in the western hemisphere.
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