Sunday, December 16, 2007

A whole new meaning to Banana Republic

The ultimate in dressing for success!

And while looking sophisticated this jacket is just perfect to conceal your AK-47 or SKS under.

For Gangs, Tattoos Out; College Look In

CHIMALTENANGO, Guatemala (AP) - Tattoos, baggy pants and tank tops are out. Smart blazers and university recruits are in. It's an extreme makeover for Central America's gangs. Facing harsh crackdowns by government security forces and citizen vigilante groups, they are trying to lower their profile.

The Mara 18 and Mara Salvatrucha gangs are known throughout Central America and the U.S. for their brazen tactics, including beheading their enemies and covering entire buildings and even their bodies with gang symbols.

Now, according to anti-gang operatives, these traditionally uneducated and aimless youth have begun recruiting high school and college students, and are expanding their criminal repertoire from minor robbery to large-scale extortion, prostitution, car theft and kidnappings.

The gangs first formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s, attracting Salvadorans who fled to the United States to escape civil war. A decade later, after many of the members were deported for crimes committed in the United States, the gangs established themselves in Central America.

The maras are believed to number about 100,000 in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. As many as 30,000 also operate in the United States, mostly in Los Angeles, according to U.S. federal authorities.

Setting themselves apart by tattooing themselves head to toe with threatening symbols and hanging out in large crowds on street corners, their goal was to intimidate law-abiding citizens and rival gangs alike, experts say.