Federal law enforcement wants to take MS-13 fight to El Salvador

WASHINGTON — Federal law enforcement leaders say taking on the problem of MS-13 here and in other parts of the country requires a global reach.

“I think what we need to do is be able to take the fight to them,” said acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. “And that fight would be working with our foreign counterparts in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.”

Blanco said the gang is able to extort money from people in the U.S. by threatening family members in those countries, and that the gang has a command-and-control structure in El Salvador.

Knowing that MS-13 makes its money through extortion and other exploitation crimes, “our focus from the investigative standpoint is to shut down those illicit proceeds from being returned to El Salvador, where the command-and-control uses that money to operate … the global gang organization,” said Derek Benner, acting Executive Associate Director for Homeland Security Investigations.

Benner said one way to address the gang problem in the United States is by placing more intelligence analysts abroad.

Blanco asked lawmakers for more resources to identify “bad actors” and remove them from the U.S.

The Senate committee was looking into connections between MS-13 and illegal immigration, and what is being done at the federal level to address the gang threat.

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John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP.

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