Switch to Desktop Site
 
 

Street gangs on the rise in South America: Are Central America's 'Maras' among them?

(Read article summary)
Image

Leonardo Baldovinos/REUTERS

(Read caption) A soldier stands guard as a policeman searches men for drugs and weapons during an operation in San Salvador January 23. As Mexican cartels are moving into Central America, this forces governments to call in army troops to support local law enforcements efforts against drug trafficking. Drug gangs have also established connections with local kingpins and gangs, known as Maras, increasing the levels of violence in the area.

About these ads

• A version of this post ran on the author's site, Insightcrime.com. The views expressed are the author's own.

In recent years, officials have expressed increasing concern about the influence of Central American street gangs, known as “maras,” in South America; but while street gangs are on the rise in the region, they are a different beast.

On May 25 last year, 19-year-old Peruvian Oscar Barrientos shot and killed his father in their home in Callao, a city just west of Lima. When Peruvian police arrested him last month, however, his confession was less shocking than his reported motive. According to officials, Barrientos considered himself a member of the Mara Salvatrucha (link in Spanish) – also known as MS-13 – and may have killed his father as part of an initiation rite into the gang (see original post for photo of his tattooed lower lip). This revelation set off a wave of speculation in Peru on the influence of the Central American street gang in the country, and prompted local police to claim that Callao is home to at least one MS-13 crew of about 20 individuals.

Next

Page 1 of 4

Share