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This is for the Mara Salvatrucha

This Is For The Mara Salvatrucha is the first non-fiction narrative about the MS-13. It tells the story of Brenda Paz, a young street gang member who betrayed her gang and became an informant, revealing a previously unknown threat across America.

by Samuel Logan

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Tapering off

August 24th, 2009

Just a quick post to let everyone know that for the next few weeks, book promo activity will taper off until this fall, when a number of speaking engagements will be announced. For now, I’ll be spending more time on my other blog, Security in Latin America.

Local TV segment today

August 18th, 2009

I’ll be on Channel 8 News this morning between 10 and 11. On CNN I had to look into the camera, which is a little unnerving! Today I hope I get to speak to an anchor in the studio! Tune in if you can…

Sharing Intel to fight transnational gangs

August 13th, 2009

A friend sent along a link I wanted to share with you here. The FBI is working closely with El Salvador to combat the MS-13 and M-18 street gangs.

The members of a new international group formed to help fight the violent MS-13 and 18th Street gangs were meeting for the first time last month at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia when the reason for the group’s existence became perfectly clear: representatives from El Salvador and Mexico realized they had been tracking the activities of the same MS-13 suspect. Now both countries could benefit from their collective intelligence efforts.

“These gangs are transnational, and right now they pretty much cross our borders for criminal activity at will,” said L.T. Chu, an FBI intelligence analyst with our MS-13 National Gang Task Force and the program manager for the new group—the Central American Intelligence Program (CAIP).

The FBI is involved in investigative partnerships to battle transnational gangs, but CAIP, whose members are primarily from Central America, is the first organization to focus exclusively on intelligence.

At the annual Policia Nacional Civil Anti-Gang conference last spring in El Salvador, Chu said, “We determined that one of our weaknesses was exchange of intelligence. We realized that it was crucial that we set up a forum and a mechanism to exchange this information.”

That thinking is very much in keeping with the Bureau’s overall post 9/11 efforts to become a proactive, intelligence-gathering organization that prevents criminal activity rather than responding to crimes after the fact.

A joint initiative of the FBI and the State Department, CAIP consists of veteran criminal intelligence analysts from the U.S., El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and Canada who work gang-related matters. Besides intelligence sharing, the objective is to standardize reports and other intelligence products and to minimize the communication gaps between countries—gaps that currently allow gang members to operate across borders.

At its first meeting—the group will meet three times a year at rotating host countries—interpreters assisted participants who spoke little English or Spanish. But even with the language barrier, everyone understands the significance of CAIP’s mission.

“Gangs are a huge problem in Guatemala,” said Heber Ramirez, chief of intelligence analysis for Policia Nacional Civil de Guatemala. Through an interpreter he explained, “It is very important that we have established relationships with these countries so that we can track gang activities across borders.” And as CAIP works toward standardizing how intelligence products are produced, he added, “We will be reporting very specific information in very specific ways that everyone can understand.”

Douglas Funes, who heads the transnational gang unit for the Policia Nacional Civil in El Salvador—which includes two embedded FBI agents working gang-related investigations—agreed that CAIP will be a vital weapon in fighting gangs.

El Salvador is “contaminated” by violent gangs, Funes said, and MS-13 alone has some 15,000 members in the country, including many members in the prison population. “Perhaps the most serious problem with MS-13,” he added, “is that they are constantly recruiting new members.”

“MS-13 and 18th Street are developing constantly and changing their methods,” Chu said. “The only way to fight them is to understand their organizations from the top down. And the only way to accomplish that is through cooperative intelligence sharing across borders. That is why CAIP is so important.”

Peter Boyle show and another TV spot

August 13th, 2009

I was on the Peter Boyles show this morning. He’s a great guy, rides a motorcyle, and has had many well known guests talk on this show, from Hell’s Angels leader Sonny Barger to Hell’s Angels infiltrator Jay “Jay Bird” Dobyns, author of No Angel. I’m hopeful I can be on his show again in the near future.

News channel 8, in Washington DC has asked me to come in on Tuesday, 18 August at 10AM. It’s a local news station, but if you’re in the area, tune in!

First TV segment! CNN Int’l - Connect the World

August 6th, 2009

I took a call today from CNN in London, and they’ve asked me to be on the CNN Int’l show, Connect the World with Becky Anderson. I’m told it will be a 4 - 6 minute segment, starting at 4:30PM, EST.

I’ll be talking about the presence of Mexican drug trafficking organizations across the world, focusing on India and China, the Americas, the US, and Europe.

Hopefully they’ll plug my book!

Tune in if you can…

Diane Rehm show follow up…

July 30th, 2009

So much fun!

The guest host, Susan was wonderful. Sarah Garland, my co-guest, was very articulate and smart. I enjoyed meeting her and chatting with her before we went in the studio for the show. And they let us keep Diane Rehm show gifts - a plastic mug and writing pad.

The callers were great. A lady from IL called, asking why we hadn’t talked about her small town, located 20 miles outside of Chicago. Another caller, who had worked in El Salvador monitoring deportees once they arrived in the country. He alluded to the fact that at the time, in the late 80s, early 90s, some deportees were killed when they arrived in the country - a very interesting perspective.

Have a listen, here!

Amazon mover and shaker!

July 29th, 2009

My publicist just emailed to say that the book has been listed on Amazon’s “mover and shaker” list! Over night, the book jumped from a sales rank of somewhere in the mid-5,000 range to #166! This is exciting news!

We’ll see how this rank holds as the week progresses…

Elliot in the Morning - DC101

July 29th, 2009

This morning’s show ran for 1:15! When I asked him how long he thought it would run, at the beginning of the segment, he said, “we’ll have you on for about 10 minutes if you suck.” Apparently he thought it went well too.

We had a couple interesting callers. One guy claimed to have been a member of the Southside Locos for about six years. He recalled that when he was a member living in Alexandria, he and his homies were fighting against the MS-13 all the time.

And another caller said that he went to middle school with Denis Rivera, one of the characters in my book. The caller said that he and Denis had actually gotten into a fight and both were suspended.

Live radio shows in the studio are fun! I’m looking forward to Diane Rehm tomorrow.

More radio shows

July 29th, 2009

It’s 5:45AM, and I’m preparing for the Elliot in the Morning radio show - DC101. It will be an hour-long live discussion, and my first in studio appearance so far. I’m sure we’ll talk about the book and MS-13, and I suspect we’ll talk about MS-13 activity in the southern Maryland area, especially around Langley Park.

You can listen live beginning 7:30AM, here.

Tomorrow, I’ll be on the Diane Rehm show with Sara Garland, author of Gangs in Garden City. I think they’ll have some FBI officials on the line as well, so it should be an interesting conversation. You can find the show here. We go live at 11AM EST.

A conservative estimate?

July 28th, 2009

I’ve been collecting news stories that illustrate the presence of the MS-13 across the country. I’d like to highlight here a couple places where we don’t normally expect them to be a problem or a threat.

One story, published on 27 July by the Providence Journal-Bulletin in RI, highlights the growing number of gang members in an area known as Cranston, where on 19 May a gunman fired 12 shots and struck a “former member” of the Original Crips street gang, an innocent bystander, and a barber.

Fortunately the police chief in the area has gone public about a gang problem and is proactive about stopping it.

Newsday (NY), on 26 July, ran a story about a man from Ghana, a “laid-back guy” would was allegedly killed by a member of the MS-13 in Central Islip. This story goes on to recount two other MS-13 related murders.

In Charlotte, where the MS-13 has been growing at a steady pace, US Representative Sue Myrick (NC-09) announced on 15 July that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) branch of the Dept. of Homeland Security will establish a full-time gang unit in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area. So far, 70 “transnational gang members” have been arrested in the Charlotte area in 2009.

And in Jefferson, IN, investigators arrested on 24 July three men with “possible ties” to the MS-13. Drugs, a stolen handgun, an assault rifle, forged documents, and MS-13 paraphernalia were all removed from the residence, along with the three suspects.

There are many, many more such stories. Together, they paint a picture of the MS-13’s presence in corners of this country that most of us have never heard of. So when I think about the numbers, that the MS-13 is present in at least 42 states and 1,200 cities, I have to wonder: Is this a conservative estimate?