The Complete Organized Crime Database on the Americas
In the suburbs of El Salvador, in neighborhoods stained by Mara Salvatrucha or Barrio 18 graffiti, there are hundreds of abandoned, decaying houses. These houses tell the drama of the families who silently lived through their own history of violence: those displaced by gangs.
There are houses that talk. They scream things, recount bits and pieces of larger stories. One house has four rooms, a small terrace and a patio. From the fixtures that survived (ceramic floor, red brick decorating the outside walls, a red metal gate), one would say
Forced displacement has a long history in Latin America. For decades - and even centuries in some countries - entire villages, families and individuals have sought refuge in the nearest town or neighboring country, fleeing the crossfire between two groups and threats to their lives.
They say that during the worst times, between 1999 and 2002, when right-wing paramilitaries who went by their acronym the AUC carried out their violent assault in Catatumbo -- a jungle-covered region between Colombia and Venezuela in the northernmost part of Norte de Santander province -- about five families a day were expelled from the town of Tibu and about two a day from El Tarra. It was a common sight to see children playing, lying down on piles of coca leaves and aiming sticks at imaginary enemies, shouting in the rhythm of machine gunfire.
From September 2011 to February 2012, hundreds of families fled the Sierra Madre in Sinaloa state after criminal gangs killed locals and burnt their houses to the ground. Almost a year after the exodus, the towns are still abandoned.
Jorge had his hands covered in dough when he heard the shots that killed his neighbor Juan. He was preparing tortillas for breakfast. After the shots, he heard the voices of those who’d just killed Juan, shouting. He was startled but remained calm. At least that’s how his
The Peten province in Guatemala is a vast territory, so big you could fit the neighboring countries of Belize and El Salvador inside it. But despite its size, there is little room for co-existence and dead bodies are a common sight. "Either leave, or I’ll make you leave,” seems to be the motto here for both illegal and legal groups, including family-run drug trafficking organizations, Mexican criminal groups like the Zetas, palm plantation owners, cattle ranchers, property owners, oil men, and indigenous Q'eqchi villagers.