The US Treasury has imposed sanctions on six Salvadoran leaders of the MS-13 street gang by adding them to its Specially Designated Nationals List, increasing the pressure on a group it controversially labeled a transnational criminal organization months before.
In a press release, the Treasury branded the six men as top figures in the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and accused them of directing and participating in drug trafficking, money laundering, extortion, and murder.
The move means any of their US assets will be frozen, while US citizens and businesses are prohibited from doing business with them.
The men were identified as: Moris Alexander Bercian Manchon, alias "El Barney"; Jose Misael Cisneros Rodriguez, alias "Medio Millon"; Enrique Borromeo Henriquez Solorzano, alias "El Diablo de Hollywood"; Marvin Geovanny Monterrosa Larios, alias "Enano"; Moises Humberto Rivera Luna, alias "Santos"; and Saul Antonio Turcios Angel, alias "El Trece."
InSight Crime Analysis
The designation of the MS-13 as a transnational criminal organization last October proved a contentious decision. Critics argued that while the group may play a peripheral role in international crimes such as drug trafficking, at its heart it remained a loose-knit network of street gangs.
The targeting of individual leaders is likely to provoke similar arguments. However, a closer examination of why these specific leaders were targeted reveals a logic behind the Treasury's thinking.
Three of the leaders, Turcios, Rivera, and Monterrosa have been indicted for crimes in the United States, and the latter two are believed to have coordinated gang strategy in the United States and facilitated the expansion of the MS-13 in the Washington DC area.
Two others, Bercian and Cisneros, are among the few MS-13 leaders to have genuinely made the leap into the world of international drug trafficking. While the MS-13 factions commanded by Cisneros have been linked to El Salvador's Texis Cartel, Bercian has emerged as an independent trafficker in his own right.
The most controversial inclusion on the list is Henriquez, who the Treasury claims is the MS-13's Central American leader. In reality, the MS-13 does not have a centralized regional leadership and Henriquez is better known for his involvement as an MS-13 spokesperson in the gang truce negotiated with rivals Barrio 18, a position that could be strained by the US designation.