Murder Suspects, clockwise, from top left: Ismael Juraez Cisneros, Denis Rivera, Oscar Alexander Garcia-Orellana and Oscar Antonio Grande.
Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, a large street gang with ties to El Salvador that has long been a violent presence in the Hispanic neighborhoods of Washington, New York and Los Angeles is one of many Hispanic gangs moving its operations into rural America.
The brutal murder of Brenda Paz in Shenandoah County, Va. is a prime example of the movement of gang crime into the small towns of rural America. Four members of MS-13 are charged with the murder of Paz. Her badly decomposed body was found on July 17, 2003 on the west bank of the Shenandoah River. Paz had been a key witness in half a dozen federal cases against MS-13.
Paz a 17-year-old member of MS-13 had dated Denis (Rabbit) Rivera, one of the more vicious MS-13 gang leaders in the Washington, D.C. area.
Hispanic gangs have moved into the countryside for several reasons:
• unskilled jobs have shifted to the countryside where the giant food factories are now located
• legal and illegal immigrant laborers follow these factory jobs - and the gangs follow the workers to these food-factory towns
• gangs move to the countryside because there is less competition for drug dealing - in the crowded and carved-up inner cities, competition among gangs is fierce
• weak law enforcement - understaffed, few Spanish speaking officers, lack of gang training
An F.B.I. report says MS-13 is thought to be active in 31 states in the U.S., from Alaska to Oklahoma, the Carolinas to Colorado, and has tens of thousands of members in Honduras and El Salvador.
Hillbangers [NY Times Magazine] [mirror]
Mara Salvatrucha [wikipedia.org]
Slain Woman Identified [dnronline.com, July 31, 2003]
Mara Salvatrucha [KnowGangs.com]
update - Sept 10, 2004: DEA attorney Douglas Kash writes about MS-13, the murder of Brenda Paz, and the Witness Protection Program [Hiding in Plain Sight A Peek into the Witness Security Program]
Thursday, August 19, 2004