Let’s review: Beginning in 1979, El Salvador was gripped by a nasty and brutal civil war between the established military junta and a newly-formed coalition of Marxist insurgents. Around a million people were displaced by the 12-year conflict and many sought asylum in the United States. The refugees, mainly anti-government sympathizers who resented American intervention in the war, illegally crossed the border and settled in southern California, mostly in Los Angeles’ Pico-Union neighborhood. Unsurprisingly, the young men from these impoverished alien communities started street gangs for personal and financial security. By 1984, they called themselves “Mara Salvatrucha” as a designation of their ties to the Salvadoran rebels.

This context is wholly absent from Vox’s presentation. The video succinctly describes the origins of MS-13 as “a group of teenagers, hanging out, smoking pot, listening to rock music” who eventually became “juvenile delinquents involved in street crimes who were stuffed into American jails.”

Vox specifically defends MS-13 against Trump’s charge that the gang is a drug-smuggling criminal cartel. The voiceover states, “that’s not really the case” and notes that the group “doesn’t have global ambitions.” Hannah Dreier, a ProPublica reporter showcased in the video, says “MS-13 is not really involved with the international drug trade.” Senior Vox reporter Dara Lind adds that “the organization doesn’t have that kind of sophistication to really play with the major players.” These assertions are made despite the fact that there is a growing mountain of evidence to the contrary.

For one thing, the video implies that the Obama-era decision to designate MS-13 as a “transnational criminal organization” had little or no factual basis. But a 2012 report from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point detailed the growing cooperation between MS-13 and Los Zetas, one of the most dangerous cartels in the world. Additional reports also suggest that MS-13 actually has bigger international ambitions, popping up in Italy, Spain, Argentina, and Australia. And according to a 2015 threat assessment by the D.E.A., MS-13 also has working connections with the Gulf Cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel, and La Familia Michoacána.





To Counter Trump, Vox Defends MS-13 As Nice Kids Who Ride Bikes, Work After-School Jobs