"Violence in Central America has grown so much in the last half decade that Colombia is no longer the homicide capital of the region. In fact, it now ranks fourth in that ignominious distinction behind El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.1 The violence is mostly due to the phenomenon of street gangs, also called pandillas or gangas, but most often maras. They have grown in number, sophistication, and stature and have largely overwhelmed the security forces of Central America's fledgling democracies. Altogether, these maras represent a significant threat to the security of the countries in the region. Numerous national, binational, multinational, regional, and hemispheric conferences have sought to address the problem."
Small Wars Center of Excellence: http://www.smallwars.quantico.usmc.mil/
Military Review (November-December 2006), p. 36-40