Investigation and Analysis of Organized Crime
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In El Salvador, a Thin Line Between Community Policing and Vigilantism

Authorities in El Salvador are keen to expand a much-praised local policing model believed to have helped two rural communities tackle bloody gang control. But a...

Copycat Extortionists: Guatemala’s Criminal Chancers

Widespread fear of street gangs in the Northern Triangle countries is being exploited by copycat groups who pose as gang members to extort victims. These criminal...

Honduras Private Sector and Anti-Extortion Police: An Unholy Alliance?

Honduras’ private sector, under the banner of regional chambers of commerce, joined forces with the country’s elite anti-extortion unit in what was a fruitful...

Panama’s Sex Workers Easy Prey for Extortionist Cops

In Panama, women in the sex trade are exposed to monetary and sexual extortion by corrupt police officers. But a new prosecution system has gone some way to...

The MS13’s Vital Fuel: Extortion

El Salvador’s groundbreaking "Operación Jaque" (Operation Check) has provided a wealth of information on the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13), revealing the gang’s...

Street Gangs

The notorious Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and 18th Street Gang (Barrio 18) are behind the majority of extortion rackets in the Northern Triangle. The development of...

Corrupt State Actors

Although gangs dominate the extortion markets in Central America, corrupt state agents will collude with them and even run some of their own extortion...

Independent Criminal Groups

The variety of extortionists in Central America speaks to the ease with which opportunists can set up their own schemes. Independent actors have taken advantage of...


Through the use of violence, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and 18th Street Gang (Barrio 18)  have become the most feared criminal brands in the Northern Triangle....

Guatemala’s Small Businesses: A Pot of Gold

In parts of Guatemala City, opening a small business or setting up an informal stall can carry a death sentence. Every week, shopkeepers and business owners pay...

Extortion of Guatemala’s Red Buses: Where Gang and Elite Criminal Interests Meet

The gangs’ bloody business of extorting transport in Guatemala has provided a pernicious environment and the perfect cover for some  economic and political elite...
Elias Akl Extortionist

Loan Sharking Grows in Costa Rica by Piggybacking on Drug Trafficking

Costa Rica’s economic crisis and its strategic position along drug trafficking routes have created the perfect storm for a new type of extortion to take root:...