Trump v gangs of New York: Using MS-13 gang as a political weapon to fan fear of immigrants

In the wealthy American suburb of Long Island, a dark side looms. There are towns where gangs operate, with the most notorious being Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13 or La Mara.
Northern Virginia Gang Task Force and immigration officers arresting an alleged MS-13 gang member in Manassas, Virginia, on Aug 10 last year as part of a national crackdown on gangs.
Northern Virginia Gang Task Force and immigration officers arresting an alleged MS-13 gang member in Manassas, Virginia, on Aug 10 last year as part of a national crackdown on gangs.PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

President Donald Trump is using the MS-13 gang as a political weapon to fan fear of immigrants. US bureau chief Nirmal Ghosh reports from Long Island, an MS-13 epicentre in New York.

Twenty-eight-year-old Ronald Aponte has a butcher shop in Hempstead, Long Island, and well remembers July 25, 2017 - the day someone was stabbed in his store in broad daylight.

"I don't know which gang came in, MS-13 or 18, I don't know," he told The Sunday Times. "But my employee's friend was here inside my store. They had a problem with a gang. The gang members came inside and stabbed my employee's friend and there was a fist fight."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 12, 2018, with the headline 'Trump vs gangs of New York'. Print Edition | Subscribe