Call it a “Wanted: Dead or Alive” list straight from the White House. On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions designated five transnational crime groups it deems pose the biggest security threat to the United States.
According to the White House, MS-13 is the premier enemy of the state. The El Salvadoran gang has long been a target of law enforcement, but this is the first time it has been designated as the nation’s top threat. The gang is followed by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel, the Gulf Cartel – all from Mexico - and terrorist organization Hezbollah from Lebanon.
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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will lead the Transnational Organized Crime Task Force, a new enforcement unit which will try to bring these groups to justice. However, at the time of the announcement the task force had not yet formed an enforcement strategy.
“I have ordered each of these subcommittees to provide me with specific recommendations within 90 days on the best ways to prosecute these groups and ultimately take them off of our streets,” Sessions told reporters.
One day after the presentation of the top 5, the Departments of Justice, Treasury, and State announced a series of measures to target and dismantle the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which they called “one of the largest, most dangerous drug cartels currently operating in Mexico”.
These measures include the unsealing of 15 indictments, the State Department’s approval of large rewards, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designations, and the establishment of a citizen tip-line.
MS-13 already topped President Donald Trump’s list of most hated criminal organizations. He often called its members “animals” in speeches and praised ICE for its role in helping rid the United States of the El Salvadoran gang. His praise resulted in a lie when he falsely claimed to have seen ICE agents “liberate towns from the grasp of MS-13.”
Trump’s words recently caused a stir in the case against Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Upon hearing his personal lawyer Michael Cohen was going to inform on him, Trump called his actions “flipping,” the street term for when an associate become a snitch. He then went on to say how such a move should be made illegal.
Prosecutors did not want their witnesses – most of them former associates of El Chapo - to be confronted by these words at the drug lord’s upcoming trial in New York. Trump’s comments could be viewed as prejudicial and favor a positive outcome for Guzman.
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