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US puts heads of El Salvador MS-13 gang on sanctions list

February 16, 2016

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Treasury named two top figures in El Salvador’s notorious MS-13 gang to its sanctions blacklist Tuesday, accusing them of orchestrating assassinations against officials.

The Treasury said Salvadoran nationals José Roberto Orellana and Dany Balmore Romero García lead local Salvadoran “cliques” in MS-13.

The gang, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, is a 30,000-strong organization involved in drug and human trafficking, extortion, and other crimes in several Central American countries as well as the United States, and was officially labeled a transnational criminal organization by Washington in 2012.

As local leaders, Orellana and Romero “are responsible for orchestrating assassination campaigns against Salvadoran law enforcement, military, and government officials,” the Treasury said.

The sanctions aim to freeze any assets of theirs under U.S. jurisdiction and freeze them out of the financial system by banning any U.S. persons or entities from doing business with them.

“From leading local operations to orchestrating assassination campaigns for MS-13, Roberto Orellana and Romero García have sought to disrupt Salvadoran government efforts to combat MS-13 activity,” said John Smith, acting director of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, in a statement. “We will continue to undermine the reach and influence of MS-13 by constraining the financial resources of those who support it.”

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