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Follow Up on MS-13

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

[Mark Safranski / “zen“]

Quick follow up to MS-13 Murder or Blood Sacrifice? SWJ on 3rd Generation Gangs at SWJ sent to me by Dr. Robert Bunker:

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 8: Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) Links to Occult Rituals and Santa Muerte Veneration or Worship

Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan

Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a street gang—as well as a group with prison gang attributes in Central America—has greatly evolved over the course of the last four decades. Starting out as a Los Angeles ‘stoner gang’ (Mara Salvatrucha Stoners—MSS), it then was directly influenced by the brutality of the El Salvadoran civil war with an influx of new members (losing the second S in the gang name in the process), became a vassal of the Mexican Mafia (with the addition of the 13 to its name—MS-13), was increasingly influenced by the Mexican cartels, and finally has come under the sway of darker Santa Muerte influences. Beyond its journey from a local street to a transnational power-seeking gang, the overlapping ideological themes and cultural narratives underlying Mara Salvatrucha’s evolution have been built upon a foundation of Satanism, occultism, brutality and torture, and rampant criminality. While some gang cliques and their members are still primarily secular in their orientation and view Satanism and occultism from more of an ideological perspective many others embrace a violent magico-religious cosmology in a sense becoming ‘true believers’ that now adhere to amoral or even evil spiritual values that invite sacrifice and torture….

Read the rest here

Also a recommendation – read Sam Logan’s  This is For the Mara Salvatrucha

MS-13 Murder or Blood Sacrifice? SWJ on 3rd Generation Gangs

Friday, January 12th, 2018

[Mark Safranski / “zen“]


John Sullivan and Dr. Robert Bunker have some analysis up at Small Wars Journal regarding a grisly, ritualistic, gang murder in Maryland by MS-13 which squares with the underground narco-cult atrocities detailed in Narcos over the Border and Blood Sacrifices: Violent Non-state Actors and Dark Magico-Religious Activities:

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 7: Suspect in Brutal Montgomery County, MD Beheading and Dismemberment Arrested—Suspected MS-13 Nexus

Police in the Washington, DC suburb of Montgomery County, MD have arrested a suspect in the brutal gang murder of a still unidentified man whose body was found in a pre-dug grave in a park in Wheaton.  The victim was stabbed over 100 times, beheaded, and his heart was cut out of his body.  The suspect is an alleged member of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and was arrested during a US Marshals Service raid on MS-13 fugitives in North Carolina and extradited to Maryland where he was charged with first-degree murder. 

Key Information: Jack Moore, “Suspected MS-13 member charged with murder in grisly decapitation, dismemberment.” WTOP. 22 November 2017,  https://wtop.com/montgomery-county/2017/11/suspect-charged-stabbing-death-wheaton-park/:
WASHINGTON — Gory details are emerging in the gang killing of a man who was stabbed more than 100 times, decapitated and had his heart cut out of his chest before being dumped in a pre-dug grave in a Montgomery County park.
Police have still not identified the man whose body was discovered Sept. 5 in a wooded area of Wheaton Regional park. But one of the MS-13 gang members who’s suspected of taking part in the grisly slaying has now been charged with first-degree murder.
Miguel Lopez-Abrego, 19, appeared in Montgomery County District Court Wednesday and was ordered held without bond.
Lopez-Abrego, was one of 10 members of the violent street gang involved in the killing, according to a police informant identified in charging documents as a “ranking member” of a local MS-13 clique…

….The brutal murder of the unidentified suspect buried in a shallow grave in Wheaton Regional Park by alleged members of a local MS-13 ‘clique’ fits a pattern of recent brutal murders in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area/National Capital Region.  In the attacks detailed above, a victim is lured to a desolate location, brutally beaten, stabbed, and in the case of the Wheaton Park murder, beheaded and dismembered.  These attacks are consistent with MS-13 ‘enforcement’ actions. It is likely the victim in this case crossed the gang in some still to be disclosed manner. The modus operandi employed is similar to other cases where the victim was viewed as a traitor or a ‘snitch’ against the clique in specific and MS-13 in general.  The victim’s dark blue shorts—which represent an MS-13 color—and certain personal characteristics may lead additional credence to such possibilities. 
Such attacks are essentially symbolic violence, utilized to show what happens to those that rat on the gang or disrespect its leaders. This attack lacks a specific ritual purpose beyond that of control—after all, the MS-13’s motto is ‘Mata, Controla, Viola’ (Kill, Control, Rape).[14]  It is unknown at this time how this murder is linked to the other three murders that occurred in recent months in Maryland, but it is possible an internal power struggle is involved. It is also unknown if this (or these) attack(s) are centrally directed or linked with MS-13 clicas (cliques) elsewhere.

Read the rest here.

MS-13 has mutated from a simple street gang thirty years ago to a decentralized transnational criminal organization that in turn will work for or join with the more powerful Mexican drug cartels, amplifying their influence and capabilities. For example, MS-13, which is heavily involved in human trafficking and contract killings for the Sinaloa Cartel, is considered by Texas authorities to be a ‘Tier 1″threat on par with much larger and more sophisticated gangs like the prison based Mexican Mafia, Tango Blast and the Texas Syndicate. MS-13 has also contributed to the renewed destabilization and erosion of democracy of El Salvador, which has unleashed its Army and death squads against the gangs, while the gangs have begun to infiltrate the Army.

What is also worrisome, which the case described by Sullivan and Bunker indicate, is the degree to which MS-13 has picked up and is internalizing the ISIS-like, narco-cult ritualistic violence of the Mexican Cartels with decapitations, torture murders and sacrificial removal of human organs and is now employing them north of the border, a stone’s throw from our nation’s capitol. If allowed to continue this kind of ultraviolence is likely to be mirrored by other street gangs.


Skulls & Human Sacrifice: Bunker and Sullivan on Societal Warfare at SWJ

Monday, May 23rd, 2011


Altars to Santa Muerte, “Saint Death” to the poor and the narcocultos

SWJ has been en fuego the last few days and this is the first of several that I recommend that readers give close attention.

Dr. Robert J. Bunker and Lt. John Sulivan are indicating that the canary in the coal mine phase of Mexico’s narco-insurgency has passed. Mexican society is entering a new and more dangerous period of accelerating cultural devolution. Nacro-insurgent violence has shifted from the economically motivated and brutally instrumental of organized crime syndicates everywhere to culturally totemic and ghastly ceremonials out of tribal prehistory:

Extreme Barbarism, a Death Cult, and Holy Warriors in Mexico: Societal Warfare South of the Border? by Dr. Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan

…Our impression is that what is now taking place in Mexico has for some time gone way beyond secular and criminal (economic) activities as defined by traditional organized crime studies.3 In fact, the intensity of change may indeed be increasing. Not only have de facto political elements come to the fore-i.e., when a cartel takes over an entire city or town, they have no choice but to take over political functions formerly administered by the local government- but social (narcocultura) and religious/spiritual (narcocultos) characteristics are now making themselves more pronounced. What we are likely witnessing is Mexican society starting to not only unravel but to go to war with itself. The bonds and relationships that hold that society together are fraying, unraveling, and, in some instances, the polarity is reversing itself with trust being replaced by mistrust and suspicion. Traditional Mexican values and competing criminal value systems are engaged in a brutal contest over the ?hearts, minds, and souls‘ of its citizens in a street-by-street, block-by-block, and city-by-city war over the future social and political organization of Mexico. Environmental modification is taking place in some urban centers and rural outposts as deviant norms replace traditional ones and the younger generation fully accepts a criminal value system as their baseline of behavior because they have known no other. The continuing incidents of ever increasing barbarism-some would call this a manifestation of evil even if secularly motivated-and the growing popularity of a death cult are but two examples of this clash of values. Additionally, the early rise of what appears to be cartel holy warriors may now also be taking place. While extreme barbarism, death cults, and possibly now holy warriors found in the Mexican cartel wars are still somewhat the exception rather than the rule, each of these trends is extremely alarming, and will be touched upon in turn.

Read the rest here.

Some of the anecdotes in this article read like the climax scenes of Apocalypse Now in the Cambodian lair of Marlon Brando’s insane Colonel Kurtz or a bloody reverie of Hannibal Lecter. While the scale is not the same, the mad cruelty equals anything seen in the eastern Congo and seems to surpass everywhere else.

Book Review: Narcos Over the Border by Robert J. Bunker (Ed.)

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Narcos Over the Border: Gangs, Cartels and Mercenaries by Dr. Robert J. Bunker (Ed.)I just finished my review copy of Narcos Over the Border. It is one of the more disturbing academic works recently published in the national security field, not excluding even those monographs dealing with Islamist terrorism and Pakistan. If the authors of this granular examination of Mexico’s immense problems with warring narco-cartels, mercenary assassins, systemic corruption, 3rd generation gangs and emerging “Narcocultas”of Santa Muerte are correct – and I suspect they are – Mexico’s creeping path toward state failure reprsents a threat to American national security of the first order.

The 237 page, heavily footnoted, book is organized into three sections: Organization and Technology Use by the narcos networks, Silver or Lead on their carrot and stick infiltration/intimidation of civil society and the state apparatus, and Response Strategies for the opponents of the cartels. Bunker’s co-authors Matt Begert, Pamela Bunker, Lisa Campbell, Paul Kan, Alberto Melis, Luz Nagle, John Sullivan, Graham Turbiville, Jr., Phil Wiliams and Sarah Womer bring an array of critical perspectives to the table from academia, law enforcement, intelligence, defense and security fields as researchers and practitioners. The effort to blend disciplinary approaches in Narcos Over the Border is both an intentional and commendable effort to break down academic and policy silos and bureaucratic “turf” perspectives that prevent analyzing Mexico’s security dilemmas as an interrelated threat increasingly resembling a full-fledged insurgency (albeit not on the classic Maoist Model).Some impressions I gained from reading Narcos Over the Border include:

  • The Narco-Cartels and the Zetas, which fight each other as well as Mexico’s military ( Mexican police generally are infiltrated, intimidated, outgunned and seriously outclassed by the Cartel gunmen, Zetas and Guatemalan Kaibiles) are better armed and better trained than are the Taliban. The deadly and efficient Zetas and Kaibiles are superior to regular Mexican military forces and have established safe haven training camps in Central America.
  • Narco-cartels are properly speaking, no longer narco-cartels but transnational criminal syndicates involved in a wider array of revenue generating activities, but with professional intelligence and military capabilities, and increasingly, political, social and religious agendas that are functionally reminiscient of Hezbollah and HAMAS.
  • The Mexican state is severely hampered in it’s response to the threat presented by the cartels by it’s own strategic use of corruption as a cost saving measure and a tool for sustaining elite control of Mexican politics, as well as a method of personal enrichment by members of Mexico’s ruling class.
  • The eschewing of the extreme violence by the cartels North of the border appears to be more of a sign of a strategic policy by cartel and Zeta bosses than a lack of capacity or evidence of a lack of infiltration into American society. To the contrary, Mexican cartel links to acutely dangerous American prison and street gangs such as the Mexican Mafia and MS-13 are significant and well documented.
  • The cartels are global, not regional or local operators.
  • The culture of the Narco-cartels, which draws on some romantic Mexican social and religious underground traditions, particularly the hybrid cartel La Familia , is morphing into a very dangerous “Narcocultas”, a neo-pagan, folk religion featuring ritualistic violence, beheadings and torture-murders carried out for reasons other than economic competition.
  • Mexico has departed the realm of having a serious law enforcement problem and has graduated to a significant counterinsurgency war against the cartels in which the Mexican state is treading water or making progress against some cartels (possibly displacing their activities to weaker states in Central America).

The authors do not assume the worst case scenario, state collapse, for Mexico but rather an insidious “hollowing out” of the state by the cartels and a mutation of Mexico’s native culture to host a 4GW nightmare. As Robert Bunker writes:

What is proposed here is that Mexico is not on it’s way to becoming a “rotting corpse” but potentially something far worse – akin to a body infected by a malicious virus. Already, wide swaths of Mexico have been lost to the corrupting forces and violence generated by local gangs, cartels and mercenaries. Such narco-corruption faced few bariers given the fertile ground already existing in Mexico derived from endemic governmental corruption at all levels of society and in some ways, it even further aided the ‘virus’ spreading through Mexican society from this new infection. Among it’s other symptoms, it spreads values at variance with traditional society, including those:

….conceivably derived from norms based on slaveholding, illicit drug use, sexual activity with minors and their exploitation in prostitution, torture and beheadings, the farming of humans for body parts, the killing of innocents for political gain and personal gratification and the desecration of the dead.

While meticulous, Narcos Over the Border is not all-encompassing in scope.  A fundamentally Mexico-centric collection of scholarly articles, it does not deal extensively with American policy makers involved in Mexico’s narco-insurgency, the intricacies of cartel financial operations or undertake case studies of narco activities in Mexican-American communities, though the authors do track narco-cartel and gang presence in cyberspace. Narcos Over the Borders represents a starting point for deeper investigation of narco-insurgency and for a national security comunity that has thus far treated Mexico as a third tier problem, a policy call to arms.Strongly recommended.

Bunker and Sullivan’s One-Stop Narco-Insurgency Shop

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Actually, an article at SWJ with an impressive list of resources on Mexico’s burgeoning cartel war:

Criminal Insurgencies in Mexico: Web and Social Media Resources by Dr. Robert Bunker and John Sullivan

The authors of this piece, individually, collectively, and in cooperation with other scholars and analysts, have written about the criminal insurgencies in Mexico and various themes related to them in Small Wars Journal and in many other publications for some years now. The Small Wars publications alone include “State of Siege: Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency,” “Plazas for Profit: Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency,” “Cartel v. Cartel: Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency,” “The Spiritual Significance of ¿Plata O Plomo?,” “Explosive Escalation?: Reflections on the Car Bombing in Ciudad Juarez,” and “The U.S. Strategic Imperative Must Shift From Iraq/Afghanistan to Mexico/The Americas and the Stabilization of Europe.” Certain truths have become evident from such writings and the raging conflicts that they describe and analyze.

First, the criminal insurgencies in Mexico have been increasing in intensity since the formal declaration of war-penned with the initial deployment of Army units into Michoacán and Ciudad Juárez against the insurgent gangs and cartels-by the Calderón administration in December 2006. Over 30,000 deaths in Mexico, just over ten-times the death toll from the 9-11 attacks, have now resulted from these conflicts with 2010 surpassing the earlier end of year tallies with almost 13,000 total killings. While most of these deaths have been attributed to cartel on cartel violence, an increasing proportion of them include law enforcement officers (albeit many of them on cartel payroll), military and governmental personnel, journalists, and innocent civilians. While some successes have been made against the Mexican cartels, via the capture and targeted killings of some of the capos and ensuing organizational fragmentation, the conflicts between these criminal groups and the Mexican state, and even for neighboring countries such as Guatemala, is overall not currently going well for these besieged sovereign nations. Recent headlines like those stating “Mexico army no match for drug cartels” and “Drug gang suspects threaten ‘war’ in Guatemala” are becoming all too common. Further, it is currently estimated that in Mexico about 98% of all crimes are never solved-providing an air of impunity to cartel and gang hit men and foot soldiers, many of whom take great delight in engaging in the torture and beheading of their victims.

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