SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador, Aug. 27 (UPI) — The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of El Salvador has ruled that criminal gangs within the country will be considered terrorist groups, including the MS-13 gang.
El Salvador’s most notorious gangs, Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, and Barrio 18, as well as any other criminal organizations that threaten or frighten the country’s people are terrorists because of their “systematic attacks to life, security and personal integrity of the population,” according to El Salvador’s Constitutional Chamber.
The chamber upheld and expanded El Salvador’s 2006 Special Law Against Terrorist Acts on Monday to define as terrorists any group that threatens the country with legitimate violence, such as gangs, as opposed to standard international definitions of the term “terrorist.”
The chamber said it recognized that the people of El Salvador are victims of criminal gangs not only because of extortion, threats, attacks against civilians and against security officials, as well as other crimes, but because of the constant fear many residents live under.
The purpose of the law is to pursue criminal groups for their “condition, and not only for the acts committed,” Howard Cotto, deputy director of the National Civil Police, told CNN Español.
El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, largely caused by the warring Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 gangs. More than 2,000 people have died this year.