Rise of the Salvatrucha: World’s most feared gang…

Rise of the Salvatrucha: World’s most feared and vicious gang is expanding with ambitions to commit the most murders

by Candace Sutton

A member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang (MS-13) stands behind bars in a cell. Photo / Getty Images
A member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang (MS-13) stands behind bars in a cell. Photo / Getty Images

Cruel, merciless and with a passion for violence, the Mara Salvatrucha gang is one of the world’s most vicious gangs and is spreading internationally. It may have even reached Australia.

Also called MS13, the gang is known for its barbaric fighting, contract killing, drug trafficking, gang rape, people smuggling and desire to be known as number one for most murders.

The gang’s members are recognisable by the extensive and symbolic tattoos covering their face and torso, although newer members are eschewing the markings which make them more easily identifiable to police.

Gang members use hand signals such as the symbol for a devil’s horn to greet each other, and initiation to become a “homeboy” or full gang member involves being kicked and beaten.

The gang exists in 42 US states, throughout the Central American countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Spain, Canada and, some claim, Australia.

Reputed to have 100,000 gang members worldwide, the Salvatrucha recruits members as young as eight years old and punishes disloyalty with murder or maiming, such as cutting off a person’s hands.

Gang weapons include every type of firearm, although some members prefer killing with a machete.

Notorious for their use of violence to inflict retribution and revenge, the cruelty of the Salvatrucha earned them respect and recruitment by one of the world’s most powerful organised crime groups, Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel.

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