HomeNewsBriefHow Gang Violence Affects Northern Triangle's Youth
BRIEF

How Gang Violence Affects Northern Triangle's Youth

BARRIO 18 / 3 NOV 2015 BY ARRON DAUGHERTY EN

A recent report details how youths in Central America's Northern Triangle region (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras) are forced to live under the oppressive threat of gang violence. 

In these nations, decisions like what street to walk on, what clothes to wear and how to style your hair can have fatal consequences, Honduran newspaper La Prensa reported.

"It's crazy," 18-year-old Mauricio Cornejo was quoted as saying. "You can't use certain shoe brands because they're part of the gang's style and you might be confused as one of them."

Like many youths in the Northern Triangle's urban centers, Cornejo lives in territory disputed by the region's two most powerful gangs, the MS13 and Barrio 18. People walking down his street could be threatened of killed by either group.

More than half of all of the Northern Triangle's homicide victims are under 25, according to La Prensa. As a result of this threatening environment, young people in the region often opt to stay in doors.

"You can't go to the public square or soccer fields because a gang fight could erupt at any moment," Salvadoran university student Humberto Garcia told La Prensa. 

The limitations violence places on youths extend past their social lives and into their future job prospects. Young people are liable to be denied work by employers who demand proof of a clean criminal history, the report said. 

Even worse, gangs often recruit teens and even children as young as eight years old to join their ranks.

InSight Crime Analysis

This report highlights how youths in the Northern Triangle are affected in both small and profound ways by rampant gang violence. Given the sweeping consequences of crime and violence in the region, it is easy to lose sight of how these security threats are experienced at the personal level.   

Born in Los Angeles, the MS13's and Barrio 18's arrival to the Northern Triangle during the 1990s -- facilitated by stricter US deportation laws -- placed them in the middle of turbulent post-war periods, where law and order was weak. This fertile ground for criminal activity enabled the gangs to flourish, and despite repressive "iron fist" policies targeting the gangs, the Northern Triangle nations are now among the five most violent in all of Latin America. In El Salvador, surging gang violence has resulted in homicide rates unseen since the country's civil war

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Homicides

The explosion of organized in the Northern Triangle during the post-war period raises questions of how Colombia will transition to peace after over a half-century of armed conflict. In September, the government and Colombia's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), announced they will reach a final peace deal by March of next year. But there are concerns organized crime will simply fill the vacuum left in Colombia's underworld by the departure of the FARC, leading to a recycling of violence and crime. 

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

Related Content

ECUADOR / 17 JUN 2011

According to a new investigation by the United Nations, killings committed by contracted assassins are on the rise in Ecuador.

HOMICIDES / 2 FEB 2016

Mexico's newly released crime statistics for 2015 reveal a mild uptick in murders last year, the first such increase the…

DRUG POLICY / 19 JUN 2017

In a meeting held with the presidents of the Northern Triangle countries of Central America last week in Miami, the…

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…