Pandilla 18

Montreal MP Probes the Sub-Culture of Gangs in Canada

November 12, 2009

by Huguette Young

Trained as a criminologist and a sociologist, Maria Mourani, a Montreal Member of Parliament (MP) with a special interest in street gangs in Canada, thought she had seen it all.

But when she delved into the universe of the

Central American street
gangs in El Salvador, the Mara Salvatrucha and the Pandilla 18, the former parole officer walked into what she describes as a “living hell.”

Through contacts, Mourani was able to meet with members of two rival gangs in El Salvador (the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS13, and the Pandilla 18), take pictures of their tattoos and visit prominent members in overcrowded prisons. This provided a rare insight into a culture of violence unlike anything she had seen before. [Photographs of gang members and their tattoos can be seen here.]

She calls these gangs “by far the most violent and most dangerous gangs in the world.”

In her newly-published book released in French, Gangs de rue Inc. (Street Gangs Inc), Mourani describes her foray in 2008 into El Salvadorbarrios controlled by gangs who deal in drugs, girls, arms, and assassinations.

She was shocked by what she found: cruel and violent initiation rites, young pregnant women proudly displaying the MS13 tattoos, children learning hand signals and a drive by gangs to “export” their “sub-culture” of violence wherever it gains a foothold.

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Tags: gangs, Maria Mourani, Mara Salvatrucha, Pandilla 18