Gang violence is a growing crisis in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, reports the Washington Post.
Central America is consumed by a battle against gangs. Their crimes have terrorized citizens in poor nations struggling to establish peaceful democracies after decades of civil wars.
The gang violence is closely connected to the United States, which spent billions of dollars on Central America’s wars during the 1980s. Thousands of Central American refugees fleeing the wars streamed into the United States, particularly to Los Angeles, where some joined or formed street gangs.
Since the wars ended in the 1990s, Central America has become fertile ground for gangs. Central American countries have very young populations, rampant poverty and unemployment, and hundreds of thousands of leftover weapons. Analysts say gangs are an attractive option for children as young as 10 looking for a place to belong in societies that seem to offer them little else.
The United States, meanwhile, has sharply stepped up deportations of criminal offenders in recent years, sending thousands of gang members back to their native countries, overwhelming police forces and prisons.
The overall effect has been a poisonous mixing of gangs in the United States and Central America, the Times reports.