Extortion in Central America comes in many forms and targets different victims. The actors behind it also vary, as does the way in which these illicit earnings exchange hands.
In the Northern Triangle nations of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, mass systematic schemes target entire transport systems. But random, criminal opportunists also try their hand, as do corrupt law enforcement officials and other criminal groups.
In Costa Rica and Panama, growing extortion-related markets such as loansharking can be managed by groups or individuals.
Business owners large and small, formal and informal, sex workers, residents in gang-controlled neighborhoods, teachers — few are spared from extortion. Even local governments, which are sometimes complicit, can be controlled by this criminal force.
The actors behind it range from the street gangs and copycat groups that imitate them, to corrupt law enforcement officials and other criminal groups involved in drug trafficking and loansharking.
And value doesn’t just change hands in the form of cash and bank transfers. Products, possessions, human beings and even sexual services and favors are handed over under threat.
In this section, we outline some notable extortion methods that we discovered during our investigation in Central America.
While the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel has faced the brunt of the Mexican government’s war against oil theft, it has used its clout in the state of Guanajuato to fall back on another successful criminal economy: intimidation and...
With Colombia now producing more cocaine than ever before, the rise of illegal mining, as well as widespread extortion, the ex-FARC mafia has all the resources it needs to rebuild itself into a national...
More than ten percent of extortion and kidnapping cases recorded in Venezuela involve members of the police and military, demonstrating the country’s continuing struggle with criminality in the security...