After the Gold Rush: Colombian Town Counts Cost of Illegal Mining Boom

For five years, the town of Buriticá in northern Colombia was consumed by a gold fever that turned the sleepy mountainside village into a stronghold of illegal mining, mafiosos and armed groups. Following the biggest anti-mining operation in Colombia's history, that gold rush is now over. But for Buriticá there is no going back; this is now a mining town. And the industry involves Colombia's most powerful crime group, the Urabeños.

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News Analysis

US Congress Members Request Investigation of El Salvador Official Linked to Organized Crime

US Congress Members Request Investigation of El Salvador Official Linked to Organized Crime

Fourteen members of the US Congress, including Democrats and Republicans, signed a letter on June 21 in which they called upon the Treasury Department to open an official investigation of Salvadoran political leader and current Vice Minister of Foreign Relations José Luis Merino for "long-standing associations with transnational organized criminal networks [that] are the subject of US criminal investigations."

News Briefs

Colombia President Declares End of FARC, But Doubts Persist

Colombia President Declares End of FARC, But Doubts Persist

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos opted for grandiloquence on June 23 in Paris, France, declaring the end of the Colombian...

Are Crime Groups Increasingly Corrupting Costa Rica Police?

Are Crime Groups Increasingly Corrupting Costa Rica Police?

Authorities in Costa Rica have arrested a former high-level police official for allegedly guarding a large cocaine shipment, suggesting that...

Venezuela President Maduro Deepens Militarization with Cabinet Shake-Up

Venezuela President Maduro Deepens Militarization with Cabinet Shake-Up

President Nicolás Maduro's latest reshuffling of cabinet and military command deepens the militarization of Venezuela's government, even as security forces...

El Salvador Strikes against Death Squads Led by Army, Police

El Salvador Strikes against Death Squads Led by Army, Police

Police and army officials were among those arrested in El Salvador's biggest opperation against anti-gang death squads in recent memory...

Mexico Arrests Knights Templar Leader, Cementing Group's Demise

Mexico Arrests Knights Templar Leader, Cementing Group's Demise

Authorities in Mexico have arrested one of the last main leaders of the Knights Templar crime group, likely leaving the...

Peru Police Port Operation Shows Drug Trade Power Dynamics

Peru Police Port Operation Shows Drug Trade Power Dynamics

A massive police operation in Peru's principal drug port, Callao, has shed light on the workings of local cocaine trafficking...

Investigations

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Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...