"Congress has maintained an interest in the effects of gang violence in Central America, and on the expanding activities of transnational gangs with ties to that region operating in the United States. Since FY2008, Congress has appropriated significant amounts of funding for anti-gang efforts in Central America, as well as domestic anti-gang programs. Two recent developments may affect congressional interest in Central American gangs: a truce between rival gangs has lowered violence in El Salvador, and the U.S. Treasury Department has designated the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a significant transnational criminal organization (TCO). MS-13 and its main rival, the '18th Street' gang (also known as M-18), continue to threaten citizen security and challenge government authority in Central America. Gang-related violence has been particularly acute in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, which have had among the highest homicide rates in the world. Recently, some governments have moved away from repressive anti-gang strategies, with the government of El Salvador now facilitating a historic-- and risky--truce involving the country's largest gangs. The truce has contributed to a large reduction in homicides since March 2012, but robberies, assaults, and extortions have continued. The truce carries risks for the Salvadoran government, such as what might happen if the gangs were to walk away from the truce stronger, better organized, and with more political clout. […] This report describes the gang problem in Central America, discusses country and regional approaches to deal with the gangs, and analyzes U.S. policy with respect to gangs in Central America."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34112