New Approaches to Central America’s Gangs


Event Summary This event has passed.

Central American gangs, the so-called maras, are widely cited as one of the region’s main sources of criminal violence, protection rackets, and—more recently—the forced displacement of children and families. With an estimated 54,000 members in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, gangs have become a driving concern to which governments have largely responded with “iron fist” policies: mass incarceration, harsher prison conditions, and militarized policing. What lessons can be drawn from two decades of mara activity? How can past experiences inform US policies towards the region and the new Alliance for Prosperity? Can innovative civil and judicial initiatives help address gang rackets and recruitment?

The Inter-American Dialogue is pleased to host an open discussion on mara criminal activity, community networks, and state responses in the Northern Triangle. For more on this issue see the recent International Crisis Group report: Mafia of the Poor: Gang Violence and Extortion in Central America.

Follow this event on Twitter at #RethinkingMaras and @The_Dialogue.


Ivan Briscoe

Latin America and Caribbean program director, International Crisis Group (@itbriscoe)

Ana Glenda Tager

Latin America regional director, Interpeace (@atagerrosado)

Steven Dudley

Co-Director, InSight Crime (@stevensdudley)


Michael Shifter

President, Inter-American Dialogue (@MichaelShifter)