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date: 21 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

In recent decades, youth street gangs have captured the attention of the media both inside and outside the region. Particularly in the northern Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, gangs underwent a transformation frompandillastomaras, and this transformation was fueled in part by the deportation of tens of thousands of immigrant gang youth from the United States. Presidential elections have been won and lost on the basis of promises about gang violence reduction. But much of the debate about gangs is based on ambiguous and often conflicting claims. This essay seeks to examine what we know about the Central American gangs, what we do not know about them, and how current research can and should shape attempts to reduce gang violence in northern Central America.

Keywords: gangs, Central America, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, maras, pandillas, gang violence

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