ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York and HSI Baltimore traveled to El Salvador this week with their local law enforcement partners and federal and state prosecutors to attend an MS-13 gang enforcement coordination meeting, hosted by the Acting Executive Associate Director (EAD) for HSI, Derek N. Benner, and the HSI Attaché to El Salvador Alvin De La Rosa. The goal of this gathering was to share intelligence and strategies in support of both United States and Salvadoran law enforcement efforts to dismantle MS-13 and other transnational gangs, while strengthening cooperation with between both countries .
HSI’s El Salvador country team led an agenda focused on cross border collaboration and joint U.S./Salvadoran efforts on the ground that included the participation of the Salvadoran Attorney General, Douglas Melendez and the Director General of the Policia Nacional Civil, Howard Agusto Cotto. U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Jean Manes and other enforcement partners discussed first-hand issues of gang violence, insecurity and economic difficulties in El Salvador and their impact on the U.S., as well as the interagency team’s continued effort to confront those problems.
“This is real-time coordination and information sharing, finding ways to leverage both local and international partnerships in combatting this vicious transnational gang. HSI is building on partnerships and pushing out our borders,” said Acting EAD for HSI Derek N. Benner. “Our bilateral relationship with El Salvador remains stronger than ever, as do Salvadoran social and cultural ties to the United States. This week we highlighted the bonds between us and Salvadoran law enforcement, finding ways to move forward together with a commitment of continued cooperation.”
Discussions held during the three-day meeting included new strategies in enforcement efforts, noting that killing for power and control remains central to MS-13’s strategy, but also their extortion activities in both countries that add tremendous amount of pressure on business owners in El Salvador as well as targeting immigrant victims in the U.S. The group also discussed efforts in programs aimed at preventing youth from joining gangs, and rehabilitate those who join gangs, noting potential funding support for youth education and employment activities in the Salvadoran municipalities, and youth programs that deter children from joining gangs, something being debated in both the United States and El Salvador.