The linking of former Maniac Latin Disciple gang member, Jose Padilla, to Al Queda had all the markings of the perfect stereotype. After all, haven't gangs been labeled "terrorists"by many in law enforcement, and aren't many laws against gangs called "Anti-terrorism" acts? Newt Gingrich also claims that gangs and terrorists have links. Attorney General Ashcroft's simplistic pronouncements can be realistically seen as one more sign of repression. Gangs aren't terrorists. But this doesn't end the story.
The press has been full of stories linking Mara Salvatrucha 13 to Al Queda. However, the leader of an FBI Task Force had this to say last February about such claims:
"The FBI, in concert with the U.S. intelligence community and governments of several Central American republics, have determined that there is no basis in fact to support this allegation of al-Qaeda or even radical Islamic ties to MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha)," says Robert Clifford, director of the new task force.
What is a gang? Is it the same as a terrorist group? I define gangs this way:
As can be seen by the definition above, institutionalized gangs do share some important characteristics with other organizations of the socially excluded. First, gangs are organizations of armed young men, like other criminal, militant fundamentalist, nationalist, and even terrorist groups.
Finally, gangs, like other organizations of the socially excluded, are supported by the underground economy, particularly the sale of drugs.
Gangs are not religions, nor are they revolutionary organizations, but, in given conditions, they can be both. In the global era, gangs, like other organizations of armed young men, are seeking an identity to protect them from a world they cannot control and where everything that is solid turns to air. Gangs, like some Islamic militants, try to shrink the world by adopting essentializing identities in spaces which have often been excluded from the global economy. [next column]
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[continued]Gangs, like other organizations of the socially excluded, are waging war against a globalized world out of their control. Often they do it destructively and follow the god of money more than trying to do good for their people. However, gangs are social actors and should be included in a broader stuggle for democracy while being held to non-violent, democratic norms. A "zero tolerance" policy of repression and indiscrim-inate incarceration is likely to make matters worse.
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