When a small explosive device was detonated remotely in a bus in Guatemala this past March, authorities were alarmed. Then gang leaders apologized and purged the perpetrators, leaving authorities confused.
The three countries of Central America’s “Northern Triangle” have agreed to cooperate on fighting the regional threat posed by gangs, but it remains to be seen whether this cooperation will extend to combating other types of organized crime.
Prosecutors in El Salvador have filed court documents alleging that MS13 leaders sought to arm an "elite unit" of the gang with high-powered weapons purchased in Mexico and Guatemala, an indication that the group's transnational connections contribute to its domestic clout.
From kidnapping and mass murder to money laundering and misuse of public funds, contemporary Latin American leaders have been investigated for a broad range of crimes, underscoring the structural challenges the region faces in the ongoing struggle to end the impunity enjoyed by its political elite.