Gangs and the School of the Americas
Posted by Arroyoribera on November 11, 2007
Sunday, November 11th, 2007
|Gangs and the SOA|
|Written by Guadalupe Chavez and Tiel Rainelli, SOAW Los Angeles|
When the chickens come home to roost. Gangs in the Americas and the Cycle of Violence and Domination. Images of Latino men with tattoos are often used by the media to generate fear and anti-immigrant sentiments.
When individuals and their experiences are dehumanized enough, many people turn away in fear. But if we step beyond those broad stereotypes and take a closer look, we can see that those tattoos tell war stories of long before their wearers were born and how their eyes offer insights into the psychological trauma and effects of repression and war. We see Children of War, some of whom have established one of the most well-organized and largest numbering street gangs in the country. Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13), a Salvadorian street gang formed in Los Angeles operates now out of at least 31 states and three countries. MS 13 has spread like a wild fire: sweeping across poverty-stricken areas of Central and North America. The formation of MS 13 has a unique origin that needs to be understood.
During the 1980’s, under the false logic of the Cold War, the United States provided direct military aid and School of the Americas training for the Salvadoran army that was systematically violating human rights in El Salvador. U.S. military aid, training, and on-the-ground advisors provided the government of El Salvador with the resources and know-how to terrorize the civilian population.
The war left over 70,000 dead and not a single soul untouched. Over two million people fled El Salvador with a great majority of them immigrating into the United States. Los Angeles became a refuge for many Salvadoran families. Faced with oppression on the streets of Los Angeles, jobs were hard to come by and the schools and streets were occupied by gangs defending their territory and indifferent to the struggle of the newly arrived. MS 13 was born out of a need for self-defense and survival. Many MS 13 members are the sons and daughters of the people that fled the U.S. suponsored war in El Salvador. The 1990’s were an incredibly bloody time for Los Angeles gangs and communities. “The War on Gangs gradually began to take shape in the mid 1990’s after a 1996 immigration law in the U.S. facilitated the deportation of undocumented people serving more than two years in U.S. detention facilities. From 1996 to 2003, the United States deported 70,000 people to El Salvador.” Those deported were not well received once they arrived in El Salvador, instead they were stigmatized and marginalized for their cultural differences and kept out of yet another system of employment, and education. In response to the deportations and the import of the gang culture from the United States to El Salvador, the Salvadorian government implemented “localized anti-gang measures and [formed] death squads that emerged to kill youth thought to be gang members.” The efforts of the Salvadorian government have been championed by the White House and Department of Homeland Security and have in fact led to the Salvadorian government’s hosting of the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA). The ILEA is a U.S. run police training school on Salvadorian soil. The school will train security forces from throughout Latin America and is operating from the exact mindset that has given rise to the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC). Both institutions are part of a racist system of violence and domination that promotes U.S. sponsored repression as the one-size-fits-all solution to social problems throughout the Americas. The anti-gang initiatives implemented and proposed by the United States and Salvadorian governments have done little to address the core conditions of tyranny that have given rise to the ever-developing gang culture. MS 13 and other street gangs need to be understood and addressed in a context that recognizes and validates the systemic forces that have led to their creation, and incorporates the gang members into the decision making and strategic planning processes needed to tackle the vulgar injustices of being poor in the Americas. As Americans scour through policy books searching for a quick fix for the gang violence it is important to admit and take responsibility for the monster we have created.
As Malcolm so eloquently put it, the chickens have come home to roost.