In an unprecedented co-operation under Operation Regional Shield (ORS), among USA, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala nearly 700 suspect involved in drug trafficking were arrested. ORS began in 2017 and is a Justice Department-led initiative to combat transnational organized crime that brings together gang prosecutors and investigators from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the United States.

Those arrested were members of the MS-13 and 18th street gangs which have plagued streets in both the USA and Central America for a long time.

Department of Justice (DOJ) said that prosecutors in El Salvador filed criminal charges against 1,152 members of organized crime groups in the country, primarily MS-13 and 18th Street Gangs. DOJ added that National Civil Police had captured 572 of the suspects on charges involving terrorism, murder, extortion, kidnapping, vehicle theft, robbery, conspiracy, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, weapons violations, human trafficking and human smuggling.

Authorities in Honduras and Guatemala also made 36 similar arrests. In Honduras, ORS joint operation took place for a period of one-week. This operation resulted in the arrest of over 75 MS-13 and 18th Street gang members and five police officers and the execution of over 10 search warrants. Illegal firearms, cellular phones, drugs and money were seized. The suspects were were charged with illicit association, murder and conspiracy to commit murder, extortion and drug trafficking.

Trump administration targeted MS-13 since the U.S. president took office in 2016. Trump has often tried to highlight the group’s violence to support his anti-immigration policy. Trump issued in February an executive order, requesting authorities to dismantle and eradicate such criminal organisations.