MS23 Leader Crook Gets Nabbed And All Hell Breaks Loose
The day probably began like any other day in the porous border lands separating El Salvador from its neighbors to the north. Another day fighting drug-running and people-smuggling as it makes its way through Guatemala and Honduras to Mexico. Today though the authorities had a mighty powerful guest in their midst. His name was Elmer Canales Rivera, alias nicknamed “Crook de Hollywood, a long-standing member of the MS13’s top ranks, known as the Ranfla. Word is Crook had stayed in a luxury apartment in El Salvador before escaping to Guatemala with the government’s help, eventually reaching Mexico.
In 2012, the Mara Salvatrucha was the first gang designated as a “transnational criminal organization” by the United States.
Six months later the culprit is in American hands, the 99 years back on his sheet. In other words, it was curious case of whack a-mole
Amazingly, El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele shared a report of Canales Rivera’s capture on social media accompanied by a winking emoticon. That would be bad form even if the prez wasn’t leading a controversial war against violent street gangs; that he is in the midst of just such a thing makes it bad form indeed.
That winking emoji is even worse when you consider that it was Bukele’s office which released Crook in the first place. Are they now saying the release was somehow “inadvertent”? That it was a mistake? Or does that winking emoji represent something altogether different?
Barron’s asked the AG’s office for some clarification; they are still waiting.
So are we.
One would think a reveal would be a no-brainer, not just because of the high
profile status of the arrestee, but because it amounted to just one of 43 arrests and nobody is saying anything. Well, we’re not sure where to turn either. So here’s the ever keen InSight Crime’s take on MS13, which falls under their Criminal Groups Round-up.
The Mara Salvatrucha, or MS13, is perhaps the most notorious street gang in the Western Hemisphere. While it has its origins in the poor, refugee-laden neighborhoods of 1980s Los Angeles, the gang’s reach now spans from Central America to Europe.
While they are largely a predatory criminal organization, living mostly from extortion, the gang’s resilience owes to its strong social bonds, which are created and strengthened via acts of violence against mostly their rivals and one another.
Their activities have helped make the Northern Triangle — Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras — the most violent place in the world that is not at war. In October 2012, the US Department of the Treasury labeled the group a “transnational criminal organization,” the first such designation for a US street gang, but their criminal proceeds do not even approach those of their counterparts on that list.
The US government has since gone one step further, in late 2020 charging over a dozen MS13 leaders in El Salvador with terrorism, marking an unprecedented escalation in the country’s fight against international street gangs.
Yes, it’s crazy that MS13 has been hot-boxed as an international terror network, especially considering how marginal their income happens to be. After all, we’re talking about extorting people’s used car payments and other such low ball scams. But we’re glad that their efforts brought about international notice, because maybe now such low ball scams can be stopped. Nobody needs to see hard-working folks’ ways to work interrupted, even for a minute.
While we’re at it, that whole holding a neighborhood hostage hustle has also gotta go. Holding law-abiding citizens hostage at the barrel of a gun isn’t kosher. And it’s gotta stop. But the only way that it will stop is to stop making deals with the bosses. Lock up 100 bodies for every one that they kill – AND KEEP ‘EM LOCKED UP; they’ll get the idea. If 100 doesn’t work; then double it; triple it. Start including families. Whatever it takes. The El Salvador prez has already suspended the rule of law; may as well use it to our/i> advantage.
And, yes, that means stop making deals with the higher-ups! Remember, two Bukele administration officials assisted Élmer Canales’ escape back at the end of November 2021: Vice Minister of Security Orisis Luna, who is also the Director of Prisons; and Carlos Marroquín, the Director for the Reconstruction of Social Fabric, who was the official liaison between the government and the gangs. And though they say the reason was to diminish killings, there’s no reason Crook got sprung other than money. And since we’re talking about marginal money here, we mean marginal reason. If you’re gonna spring someone, spring someone who can change the game and bring in some serious money. Not someone looking to exploit the same-old, same-old. After all, a few hundred more extorted used car loans don’t do much for the corner corporate suites.
Nah, from what we can see, the entire MS13 system needs to be reconfigured away from filching off the poor. How about shaking down folks with money? Drug dealers always seem to be ripe. Or how about dealing drugs like everyone else? They seem to be doing okay. This won’t require having to sweat little old abuelita either,
In other words, the Salvadoran officials should be ashamed of themselves for making such a deal with such a heel. Don’t they realize that all comes back to haunt them? And now it has.
Mind if we say “Boo Hoo”?
Nobody knows what’s to come from Crook falling into the hands of U.S, authorities. Let’s hope we can suss out who let him go to begin with and work from there. We’ve already got the tape of the Salvadoran official bragging about “keeping his word.” What else can it take? A signed letter?
From there let’s hope the U.S. can start dismantling the MS13 system, one leg at a time. Take down the individual shake down operations and free the victims from their penury. You’ll see a world of good just from that one move alone.
Nabbing Crook: Investigations by El Faro
It’s been determined that two Bukele administration officials were responsble for Crook’s great escape – Is Vice Minister of Security Orisis Luna still Director of Prisons? And what about Carlos Marroquín, is he still the Director for the Reconstruction of Social Fabric and the official liaison between the government and the gangs? One would think both would be given their walking papers.
Unless of course El Faro’s reporting is true:
“Step two: Activate their entire network of spokespeople, with the objective of toppling the state of exception however they can.”
Set to expire May 27, ruling-party and allied legislators are calling for the second month-long extension of the state of exception and have promised to do so until all of the country’s 70,000 gang members are in prison. At this rate —on average, about 600 arrests per day, if granted the heavily-disputed government assertion that all are gang members— that would take at least until the end of July.