Constant fear of MS-13 gang violence pervades El Salvador

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador In Santa Ana, about an hour outside the capital, the two main gangs MS-13 and Barrio 18 have tremendous power.

Memorial candles are always lit for Anthony, another victim of the violent gang MS-13. His grandmother, Teresita, says her grandson was not a gang member. She says the way he was killed was especially difficult because he was assassinated.

CBS News is not using the family’s last name because their lives might be in danger.

One of Anthony’s childhood friends was a member of MS-13, and to move up in the gang, he killed Anthony in 2010. With the help of forensic scientist Israel Ticas, Teresita searched all over for his body. Two years later, his remains were discovered, cut up and stuffed in a septic tank.

Ticas says the violence is worse now. On Tuesday night, police caught 26 suspected gang members, and many of them are accused of extortion, the gang’s main source of income. It’s message is simple: “Plata o plomo,” a motto that basically means “pay me silver, or take my lead.”

There’s an American connection to the successful raid. American tax dollars helped pay to train those police officers. The U.S. spent $72 million in aid to El Salvador last year. But this year, the funding is down to $46 million.

That’s too little, too late for Teresita. Anthony’s death destroyed the family. Her daughter moved to Guatemala and one son fled to the U.S. She now works everyday selling street snacks and worries the gangs will recruit, or even kill her younger son.

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