Inside MS13: Separating Fact from Fiction


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The subject of presidential tweets and countless local news reports, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) is one of the world’s largest and arguably most violent street gangs. A largely urban phenomenon with between 50,000 and 70,000 members spread across two continents, MS13 presents a daunting security, development, and anti-narcotics challenge for governments across the Americas. In particular, the gang’s diffuse nature, complex social structure, and logic-defying tendencies have often stymied law enforcement efforts. At the same time, the dark and almost mythic aura surrounding MS13 can be an impediment to developing rational, coordinated policy approaches to this common threat. 

The Inter-American Dialogue is pleased to partner with InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American & Latino Studies for this discussion, which is based on their groundbreaking new investigation, “MS13 in the Americas: How the World’s Most Notorious Gang Defies Logic, Resists Destruction.” This report is based on hundreds of interviews with, and surveys of, gang members, law enforcement officials and community representatives in El Salvador, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and Long Island. 

Follow this event on Twitter at #UnderstandingMS13 and @The_Dialogue.



Steven Dudley

Co-Director, InSight Crime, (@stevensdudley)

Hector Silva Avalos

Research Fellow, American University CLALS (@HsilvAvalos)


Vanda Felbab-Brown

Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution (@VFelbabBrown)


Michael Shifter

President, Inter-American Dialogue (@MichaelShifter)

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