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MS-13 and the Threat of Transnational Gangs

El Salvador is a small country in Central America with the unfortunate distinction of a big number. It has one of the highest murder rates in the world, an average of 18 killings every day. That's in large part because of the country's ruthless street gangs. So when the two biggest rivals called a truce this spring, the murder rate dropped by 30 percent. That tenuous peace lasted just six months. Earlier in September, five schoolboys were murdered after resisting a gang's forced recruitment.

That gang is thought to be Mara Salvatrucha, more commonly known as MS-13. The gang is not even native to El Salvador. In fact, it's an American export. Born on the streets of Los Angeles, MS-13, and its rival 18th Street, both took root in Central America after many of their members were deported for crimes committed in the United States.

MS-13 is now active in almost every region of the U.S. And Sureno gangs, including MS-13 and 18th Street, are the fastest growing of all the national-level gangs. They're a big reason why gangs overall are responsible for almost half of violent crime in large urban areas of the U.S.

This week Christiane Amanpour discusses the threats posed by transnational gangs with Martin Licciardo. He heads the FBI's National Gang Task Force, which maintains extensive ties with law enforcement counterparts in Central America.

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