Mara Salvatrucha refers to large gangs involved in criminal activities in Central America and the United States. The gang names are commonly abbreviated as MS, Mara, MS-13, and are composed mostly of Salvadorans, Hondurans and other Central Americans. The Mara Salvatrucha gangs have cliques, or factions, located throughout the United States and Latin America. Membership is believed to total over 100,000 worldwide. MS criminal activities include drug smuggling and sales, black market gun sales, human trafficking, assassinations for hire, theft, and assaults on law enforcement officials. Their activities have caught the eye of the FBI, who in September 2005 initiated wide-scale raids against suspected gang members, netting 660 arrests across the country. In the United States, the gang's strongholds have historically been in Southern California, Miami and Washington, D.C..
Former gang member Brenda Paz said that MS is well structured, with multiple leaders, and that the gang's goal was to become the top gang in the United States.[