Analysis

Major US Cities at Risk as Cartel Joins Forces With MS-13
Mara Salvatrucha gang members at the prison of Ciudad Barrios in El Salvador on June 19, 2012. Maras, who belong to MS-13, usually have tattoos covering their bodies and faces, but not always. Some members of the gang blend into society and even hold day jobs. (Jose CABEZAS/AFP/GettyImages)
October 25, 2012
| Security
| The Americas
Summary
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The ultra-violent street gang MS-13 has been fingered by the U.S. Treasury Department as a transnational criminal organization, but LIGNET believes that future law enforcement victories gained by freezing the group’s financial activities could be offset by its new “joint venture” with a deadly Mexican drug cartel. The Los Zetas cartel has reportedly engaged in the training of MS-13 gunmen in Mexico and there are signs of joint criminal activity between the cartel and MS-13 in Guatemala that could potentially spread beyond Central America into America’s border region.
MS-13 has a ready-made network of gang activity in the United States in at least 40 states: This could provide the foot soldiers needed by Los Zetas to further expand cross-border narcotics sales in North America. MS-13 would also look eagerly to more sophisticated paramilitary training using assault weapons that the Zetas could readily offer. This alliance is still in embryonic stages, but could pose a significant law enforcement challenge someday if a complete MS-13 and Los Zetas union is able to expand north of Mexico. 
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