State of War MS-13 and El Salvador’s World of Violence
The Story of MS-13 and Its American Roots
Born in Los Angeles, the gang MS-13 was founded in the 1980s by Salvadoran refugees who had been hardened in a civil war stoked by American foreign policy. But the gang found its way home a decade later, as the U.S. began deporting thousands of convicts each year back to the Northern Triangle—El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Today, those countries share the world’s highest murder rates, and account for 70 percent of the migrants arriving at the U.S. southern border.
Foreign correspondent William Wheeler tracks MS-13 from L.A., where he meets the founders of the gang, to El Salvador, where three generations of Salvadorans have been drawn into an escalating cycle of conflict. State of War tells the tragic story of a brutal civil war that has never ended
William Wheeler is a writer and producer who has reported on political affairs across much of the developing world. The subjects of his reporting have been far-ranging, including the Libyan refugee crisis and the fault lines of the E.U., the rise of Europe’s far-right, the radicalization of a Danish jihadist, the murder of a Honduran environmentalist, and a Cold War assassination attempt on Bob Marley. He was a part of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting team that won National Press Club and Society of Professional Journalists awards for coverage of the rebuilding effort in Haiti, and his feature from Pakistan on geopolitical tensions over the Indus River won an Earth Journalism award at the Copenhagen climate summit. His work has appeared in The New York Times, TIME, Foreign Affairs, The New Republic, McSweeney‘s Quarterly, Playboy, and elsewhere. He is an Emmy-nominated producer who worked on Showtime’s forthcoming doc-series, “The Trade,” with Oscar-nominated director Matthew Heineman. He holds graduate degrees in international affairs and journalism from Columbia University. State of War is his first book. Follow him on Twitter at @williamgwheeler.