One thing I forgot to mention about Manwaring’s book is this crucial point he makes:
The only way to fight these gangs and cartels successfully is to stop thinking about them as criminal gangs and to understand that these are transnational business organizations that are destroying state sovereignty. It’s been 30 years, parts of Mexico and Central America are turning into feudal enclaves where state authorities have no access, masses of people are being displaced, and the traditional crime-fighting techniques are not working.
There is currently a lot of politically motivated minimization of the maras’ impact but Manwaring wrote his book in 2007, and even back then it was already clear that the Northern Triangle and Mexico are headed in the direction of becoming failed states. We need to abandon the childish “if Trump says maras are dangerous, they must be innocent like daisies in the field” and look at reality. The gangs aren’t about fashion statements or “controlling the halls of a single high school.” These are terrifying organizations and calling them animals is a lot less racist and harmful than minimizing what they do with ridiculous chatter about fashion and school hallways.