Thursday, June 25, 2009

Gang intervention leader arrested by FBI on suspicious charges

Alex Sánchez, Director of the US office of the gang intervention organization Homies Unidos, was arrested today by the FBI on federal racketeering charges. Sánchez is a well-respected leader of the gang intervention movement in both the United States in El Salvador, and many organizations and community leaders have come to his defense.

Sánchez immigrated to the United States from El Salvador when he was a child and joined the infamous Mara Salvatrucha gang in Los Angeles when he was a teenager. After several arrests, Sánchez was deported to El Salvador, where he lived on the streets and feared retaliation from gangs and death squads who saw him as a rival. Sánchez returned to the United States in 1995 and won an asylum case in 2002. In 1998, Alex Sánchez co-founded Homies Unidos, an organization that supports gang violence prevention and intervention. Of América blog has a list of links to stories detailing how Mr. Sánchez has repeatedly been subject to abuse, harassment, and unlawful deportation by the LAPD.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the indictment includes the names of 24 leaders, members, and associates of MS-13, part of the Mara Salvatrucha gang. The alleged crimes include seven murders, eight conspiracies to commit murder, and gun and narcotic offenses. All of these alleged crimes are supposed to have transpired after Alex Sánchez returned to the United States and became an anti-gang leader. The FBI arrested Mr. Sánchez in his home, as his wife and children watched.

CISPES released a letter of support today for Alex Sánchez.

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

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