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Geopolitics

A History Of Violence: Gangs, Drugs And “Mano Dura” In Central America

Analysis: Homicides have soared in Central America as local street gangs are fed by Mexican drug cartels, which have taken over drug trafficking routes once handled by Colombians.

A member of the Latin King gang showing his tattoos (Javier Ramirez)
A member of the Latin King gang showing his tattoos (Javier Ramirez)
Montserrat Nicolás

WASHINGTON - Just a few kilometres away from the CIA headquarters in Washington D.C. live thousands of marginalized young people involved in Latino gangs called maras. They are pawns in a violent game being orchestrated by international drug cartels, which in recent years have increased their activity in both Central America and the United States.

"They use the maras for transport, logistics and the local distribution of drugs… and in some cases (but not all), the maras provide the cartels with muscle," says James Bosworth, a security analyst based in Nicaragua and with many years of experience in Central American affairs.

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May 21-22

  • A liberated Ukrainian village
  • Long COVID limbo
  • TikToker under fire
  • … and much more.
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