HomeNewsAnalysisStudy Looks at Transnational Crime in Northern Triangle
ANALYSIS

Study Looks at Transnational Crime in Northern Triangle

17 DEC 2010 BY INSIGHT CRIME EN

A panel discussion Monday at the Wilson Center highlighted the interconnectedness of organized criminal groups in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

The panel speakers highlighted the ways in which local organizations, often aided by military and civilian authorities, maintain a kind of "freelance" partnership with the Mexican drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs). The event was sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Center's Latin America Program.

Thanks, in part, to geography, the Northern Triangle countries are now playing key roles in the smuggling of drugs, guns and undocumented migrants. All three nations have been deeply penetrated by Mexican cartels, who control the upper levels of the region's criminal networks. But while local criminal groups – including the Perrones in El Salvador, the "transportistas" in Honduras and the "Maras" in Guatemala, among others – are increasingly in collusion with DTOs like the Sinaloa cartel and the Zetas, the Mexicans are not interested in demanding total loyalty from their local allies.

In El Salvador, the primary role of low-level criminal groups is as transporters, or overseers of the domestic drug market, said analyst Douglas Farah.

"The Meixicans aren't that interested in establishing a huge presence," he said during the discussion. "They're not there for control. They have enough control through the Perrones, through the other [local] groups, that they're able to do what they need to do without establishing a massive presence."

Likewise, in Honduras, security consultant James Bosworth said that "micro-cartels" as small as 10 to 20 people are moving cocaine by land and sea to Guatemala. Other low-level gangs contract out their services to the Mexican cartels, protecting drug shipments and acting as "muscle."

"The Mexican cartels do not trust the gangs to actually move [the product] so they just kind of freelance them out," he said.

In Guatemala, where, in contrast to El Salvador and Honduras, the Zetas have established territorial control, there is a complex network of alliances between the foreign cartels, the local traffickers, and corrupt authorities, often from the military. But few of the business relationships are clear-cut alliances between Mexican and local actors, said freelance journalist Julie Lopez.

As noted in a previous report by InSight Crime, half of the cocaine that enters the United States from Mexico travels first through the Northern Triangle. Drug trafficking in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras has contributed to a spike in violence and crime, leading to homicide rates five times as high as Mexico's.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…