Now, the same outfit has driven itself onto the news agenda with the announcement that it was going to start armed patrols on one sector of the border, claiming they didn't intend to shoot anyone, or at least that "the time for this[shooting, TYR] is not yet upon us". It's hard to find anyone who thinks this is a good idea - I for one don't believe that anyone who volunteered for this isn't mad keen to shoot a Mexican. Even if they were (purely hypothetically) decent, just the fact they are "patrolling" and armed means any trouble they get into will be that much worse. Over at Crooked Timber, a commenter asked the question of what would happen if they encountered a load of drugs on its way north - presumably Mexican drug smugglers would be quite prepared to fight for their cargo?
More seriously, the fearsome international criminal gang MS-13 has promised to kill any of them they find. These boys are serious, friends. From Street Gangs: The New Urban Insurgency, US Army Institute of Strategic Studies (linked downblog)
: "More speciﬁcally, 3,500 people, including more than 455 women, were murdered in Guatemala in 2004. A majority of those murders took place in public, in broad daylight, and many of the mutilated bodies were left as grisly reminders of the gangs’ prowess."They originated in the 1980s when the Americans passed a law that said that recent immigrants, or their relatives, who were convicted of gang membership would be sent back to Central America. It sounded simple, but as usual it wasn't. Pouring streetwise thugs without the skills to survive back in Guatemala (often even without the language), but with the skills of modern criminality and a burning sense of resentment, into a variety of weak, poor and corrupt states unsurprisingly turned out to be a Bad Thing. Instead of just vanishing, they continued their careers, eventually exporting their brand across the whole region and muscling in on every racket going. Which, in Latin America, usually meant cocaine in the end.
So - the expelled gang members became the criminal kings of the countries they landed up in. Then, of course, they began to recruit. That, in turn, meant that there were now people heading back to LA as new immigrants to rebuild the lost territories. The brilliantly simple political line - Send Them Back Where They Come From! - had put them in charge of both ends of the drug pipeline. The culture of gangs like MS13, it turned out, behaved exactly like a virus. This is precisely why it isn't a good idea to refuse foreigners treatment for AIDS, as some politicians advocate. Sending them to somewhere with worse public health to spread the disease is foolish and counterproductive in exactly the same way as exporting LA's street crime problem was. They shoved them from where they might at least be kept in bounds to somewhere where there was no constraint on them at all.
By the way, attentive British readers may by now have noticed something: it didn't stop in Latin America, but kept going. How else could there have been a faction in Sierra Leone who called themselves The West Side Boyz and packed enough violence to take a whole section of British soldiers hostage, before having to be wiped out by the SAS? Branding works, and not just for the rich.
Back on topic. If there is anything to either side's boasting (after all, the gradient from front to reality is usually steep), then the good people of Tombstone, Arizona are in for a show. Three-way gunfights between the US Border Patrol, cowboy fantasists and one of the world's nastiest organised crime societies, probably on live TV. Beats rolling 24-hour coverage of the pope's urinary tract.