Countries

One of Latin America’s most impoverished nations, Bolivia is the world’s third largest producer of coca after Colombia and Peru, and a key transit point for drugs. In addition to serving as an air bridge for Peruvian cocaine, Bolivia is home to foreign criminal organizations, particularly Colombian groups, some of which run cocaine laboratories in the country...

Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy, has seen some important security advances in recent years, taking dozens of communities in Rio de Janeiro from criminal gangs through its innovative UPP security program. However, it faces a serious threat from its two largest domestic criminal gangs, the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando Capital - PCC) and Red Command (Comando Vermelho), who are...

The Caribbean's geographic location and countless islands make it a huge transshipment route for drugs heading to the United States, a dynamic that has fostered high rates of violence and gang-related crime. Weak governance and endemic corruption have been essential in strengthening organized crime's roots in the region...

 

Despite the government's advances in security over the last decade, at least a half dozen major criminal groups still operate in Colombia. Several of them have put ideology aside and focus on drug production, trafficking and distribution on a local level, even while they continue to move arms, launder money, kidnap and extort. The complicated panorama has been fueled by...

El Salvador is a relatively small but growing player in the drug trafficking business, serving as a recipient and storage point along the Pacific Coast, and a bridge via the Pan-American Highway, the Fonseca Gulf, and small roads from Honduras that cut across the relatively unpopulated mountains. Local transport groups have their roots in the country’s civil war, when many...

Guatemala's criminal organizations are among the most sophisticated and dangerous in Central America. Some of them have been in operation for decades. They include former members of the military, intelligence agencies and active members of the police. Transporting illegal drugs north comprises the bulk of their activity, but organized crime in Guatemala is also involved in marijuana and poppy cultivation...

Executive Summary One of the poorest countries in Latin America, Honduras is also among the most violent and crime-ridden countries in the region. This is, in part, due to its role as a strategically important transit nation for the transnational drug trade, as well as macroeconomic shifts, endemic poverty, corruption, and political turmoil. Estimates vary, but between 140 and 300 tons of cocaine...

Mexico is home to the hemisphere’s largest, most sophisticated and violent organized criminal gangs. These organizations have drawn from Mexico’s long history of smuggling and its close proximity to the United States, the world’s largest economy, to grow into a regional threat. Their networks stretch from Argentina into Canada and Europe. They traffic in illegal drugs, contraband, arms and humans...

Nicaragua has been spared much of the violence that has shaken its neighbors, and while the country does appear to host at least one transnational criminal organization, so far it has not seen the kind of gang wars affecting the Northern Triangle countries: Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. While Nicaragua sees plenty of drug trafficking over its borders, local traffickers...

Panama's location connecting Central and South America has historically made it a key transit point in illegal trafficking routes, as well as a refuge and negotiating area for criminal organizations. Its favorable economy and the Colon Free Trade Zone (CFZ)'s booming contraband market have long attracted international money launderers. The country's weak judicial...

Although violence in Peru has been relatively low since the end of its civil conflict in the late 1990s, the cocaine trade is on the rise in the country, which surpassed Colombia to become the world's largest producer of cocaine in 2011, according to some estimates. Profits from drug trafficking and illegal logging have fueled a small resurgence of the...

Known as "the Switzerland of Latin America," Uruguay has some of the lowest crime rates and strongest state institutions in the region. At the same time, however, the historically peaceful country is undergoing a steady rise in crime and insecurity, much of which is linked to drug trafficking and small-scale gang activity. The country -- which is testing some of...

Venezuela is a key transit country for drug shipments going from Colombia to the United States and Europe. The illegal drug trade has traditionally been controlled by foreign organizations, particularly Colombians, attracted by poor rule of law and corruption. However, there is evidence that beginning in the mid-2000s corrupt elements in the security forces stepped up their role in the...

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
Prev Next

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla -- a decorated war hero and a longtime US ally -- finds himself treading water amidst a flurry of accusations about corruption and his connections to drug traffickers. López Bonilla is not the most well-known suspect in the cases against...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...