Information on the formation of street gangs in El Salvador by Salvadorans forcibly returned from the United States of America [SLV23520.E]

Please consult the attached media reports that confirm the existence of street gangs in El Salvador that have direct links to the United States.

The following information is from a 19 March 1996 interview with a New York-based freelance journalist who has been investigating the US/El Salvador gang connection since 1993 . The journalist has lived in El Salvador for four years and is presently writing a book on this subject. She estimates that there have been approximately 600 gang members from the Los Angeles area deported since 1992, but does not believe that number to be as high in El Salvador, due to gang members dying in street-fights, in prison murders and riots and at the hands of Salvadoran vigilante death squads. When the deportees are sent back to El Salvador, they can be easily identified by other gang members because of their tattoos and they are quickly re-integrated into the Salvadoran operations of the gang. Often the deportee's immediate family is still living in the United States, so the deportees either live with their extended families, and/or receive financial support from the Salvadoran branch of their respective gang. Active recruitment is presently occurring among local youth. The source indicated that the following US-based gangs are known to be operating in El Salvador; Mara-salvatrucha (Los Angeles, Southern California and Washington, D.C.), 18th Street (Los Angeles, Southern California, the largest Latino gang in the U.S.), Crazy Riders (Los Angeles), Playboys (Los Angeles), Florencia (Los Angeles) and the Latin Kings (Chicago) as well as some smaller gangs from Texas. Gangs are believed to be operating in every part of El Salvador, where their neighbourhoods or 'turf' are identified by graffiti, and the gang members identified by their tattoos.

For information on the number of Salvadoran citizens deported from the United States during the period of January 1990 to March 1996, please consult Response to Information Request USA23519.E of 20 March 1996 for an attached facsimile document of deportation statistics from the US Immigration and Naturalization Service.(INS). For information on the special INS deportation procedures for gang members, consult the same Response to Information Request.

For additonal information on the gang known as Mara-salvatrucha, please consult Response to Information Request USA20358.F of 7 April 1995, available in French at Regional Documentation Centres.

For information on the re-emergence of death squads in El Salvador, and their involvement in the murders of juvenile delinquents, criminals and others please consult Response to Information Request SLV23284.E of 11 March 1996.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Freelance journalist, New York. 19 March 1996. Telephone interview.


The Associated Press. 22 June 1995. Edith Beltran. "Threatened by Death Squads, Gang Members Flee to United States." (NEXIS)

Central America Report [Guatemala City]. 15 September 1995. Vol. 22, No. 35. "El Salvador: New Strategy to Combat Street Gangs," p. 7.

_____. 19 May 1995. Vol. 22, No. 18. "El Salvador: The Shadow Of Death Squads Returns," pp. 1-3

The Chicago Tribune. 2 June 1995. North Sports Final Edition. Colin McMahon "Back From L.A. With a Graduate Education (in Mayhem; Salvadoran Gang Members Learn From U.S. Mean Streets." (NEXIS)

The Dallas Morning News. 26 July 1995. State Edition. "Salvadorans Protest Arrests in Hit-Squad Case." (NEXIS)

_____. 10 July 1994. Bulldog Edition. Mike O'Connor. "Salvadorans Deported From U.S. Bring Gang Violence to Homeland; Immigrant Life Taught Youths to be Criminals." (NEXIS)

The Fresno Bee. 2 July 1995. Home Edition. Colin McMahon. "U.S.-Style Gangs Grow Among El Salvador's Impoverished Youth." (NEXIS)

The Guardian. 17 June 1994. Tracy Wilkinson. "Gang Violence Becomes Latest American Exports" (NEXIS)

Inter Press Service. 13 July 1994. Edith Beltran. "El Salvador: Gang War Replacing Civil War." (NEXIS)

Los Angeles Times. 27 June 1995. Juanita Darling. "The War on 'Disposable People'." (Central America NewsPak [Austin], 26 June-9 July 1995, Vol. 10, No. 11, pp. 2-3)

National Public Radio [Washington, D.C., in English]. 20 February 1995. Mike O'Connor. "Street Gangs in El Salvador Began in United States." (Morning Edition, Transcript No.1546-9, NEXIS)

The Times-Picayune. 9 July 1995. Ray Sanchez. "Death Squads Alive in Salvador; Shadowy Vigilante Groups Target Tattooed Teen-Age Gang Members." (NEXIS)

_____. 4 June 1995. "L.A.-Style Gangs Plague El Salvador; Big Crime Wave Follows Civil War." (NEXIS)