Are CentAm Nations Hyping Transnational Threat of Gangs?

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Authorities in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador and Honduras have recently highlighted fears of gang members’ transnational criminal activities in Central America, but little evidence is available to support these claims.

Honduran security officials raised the alarm about gang members from El Salvador crossing into Honduras to recruit youths and evade capture, reported

There appear to be conflicting reports on gang members from El Salvador being active in rural areas of Honduras’ Lempira department, where officials say the foreigners have been recruiting in the municipalities of Mapulaca, La Virtud, Valladolid, and Guarita. The Honduran government reportedly deployed special forces to the region to meet the threat.

The Honduran-Salvadoran border has always been poorly secured, porous and easily traversed. However, no killings of the sort normally associated with gang activity in El Salvador have been reported in these rural villages. The municipality of Valladolid, for example, has not registered a homicide in five years. The mayor of La Virtud, Arnulfo Rodriguez, has denied the presence of Salvadoran gang members in his town.

Salvadoran officials are also highlighting the growing transnational nature of gangs, claiming that the leadership of MS13 is involved in a vast arms smuggling network transporting weapons from Guatemala to El Salvador, reports

SEE ALSO: Honduras News and Profiles

Citing several recent instances of gang members being arrested with firearms, officials refer to a leadership clique known as “The Federation” which taxes gang members to facilitate and pay for the purchase of military grade weapons. Many of the recently captured weapons are assault rifles and handguns, such as M-16s, pistols, AK-47s and a variety of pistols.

InSight Crime Analysis

Although government officials in the Northern Triangle countries — which include El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — have previously emphasized the cross-border threat that gangs pose to their domestic security, there is still little evidence to support the claim that gangs represent the sophisticated transnational threat governments have described.

    SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

The flow of illegal weapons across borders in the region is not a new phenomenon, and gangs are far from the only actors to participate in this illegal arms trade.

Additionally, very little evidence, aside from anecdotal cases, has come to light to support Honduras’ persistent claim of gang members from El Salvador pushing over the border. Honduras has plenty of gang members of its own, as violence continues to plague the country’s major cities of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.

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