Gangs in Central America [February 20, 2014]   [open pdf - 387KB]

"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. This report focuses primarily on U.S.- funded international anti-gang efforts. The Mara Salvatrucha (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 having facilitated a historic--and risky--truce involving the country's largest gangs in 2012. The truce contributed to a large reduction in homicides, before beginning to unravel in recent months. The truce carries risks for the Salvadoran government that will take office on June 1, 2014, such as what might happen if the gangs were to walk away from the truce stronger than before and/or if the truce were to end abruptly and prompt an escalation in intra-gang violence. […] This report describes the gang problem in Central America, discusses country approaches to deal with the gangs, and analyzes U.S. policy with respect to gangs in Central America. Also see CRS [Congressional Research Service] Report R41731, 'Central America Regional Security Initiative: Background and Policy Issues for Congress,' by Peter J. Meyer and Clare Ribando Seelke."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL34112
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