Saturday, January 15, 2005

¿ Mara Salvatrucha ?

25 people killed. No reason.

Here is another terrible story. What the hell is happening when a gang of thugs murders 25 innocent women and children who were just simply riding a bus? What is the cause of it? I certainly have a limited capacity to discuss the subject. Despite the fact that I have been to Honduras, and in particular to San Pedro Sula where this December atrocity occurred, and grew up in Northern Virginia where Mara is active, I still have had different life experiences and for the most part simply don't understand the motivations of those who want to join gangs. However I still feel there are some questions that I think are important to ask.

From US with Hate

Why did Central Americans have to come to the US before gang culture became strong there? What is unique about the American experience that made gangs so strong and appealing here? Is it the latent racism? Is it the income inequality? Is it the vast amounts of many available to criminal activity like drug and extortion? Is it the lack of functioning American communities? Is it the American family? Next, why are gangs now thriving in Central America and Honduras in particular? Are the same conditions that gave rise to gangs in the US now present in Central America? Is the criminal economy becoming more profitable? Are families feeling the same pressures of the modern world? Is Honduras now experiencing increasing polarization?

Al qaeda : Mara :: Patriot Act : ?

Now a second general angle on this story. Is Mara a terrorist organization? What makes it different from al qaeda? Both murder innocents in pursuit of their political agenda. Al qaeda however has different political objectives, i.e. presumably al qaeda would kill Americans for the express purpose of being America and has as a goal the destruction of America. At least I think so. Actually I doubt seriously that the American press does a good job of explaining exactly what al qaeda really wants or stands for. It is interesting how different types of violence are considered legitimate, but that is a different topic al together. I would also say that I wouldn’t trust what al qaeda says either partially because I don’t think they would hesitate to use the global mass media as a weapon and also I do think there is a lot of understanding to be gained by viewing al qaeda as a mass pathology as Paul Berman describes, thus trying to rationally figure out what al qaeda wants may not be all that successful. Further al qaeda is not now a hierarchical organization (if it ever really was) and is really a label used by different actors and organizations for different reasons. But this is not really a column about al qaeda.

Is Mara a mass pathology like al qaeda? Or is it mostly just a criminal syndicate? Is Mara a hierarchical organization?

Finally what should be done about Mara? Is Honduras’ heavy-handed tactics working? How will Mara be dealt with by American authorities? Will the patriot act be used against it?

All things to thing about.

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