Guatemalan crooks net $61 million annually
Contributing to the exodus from the Northern Triangle to the U.S. border, gangs and copycat criminals are shaking down Central American businessmen for hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Guatemalans alone are being hosed for $61 million a year according to that country’s interior ministry. Shares of the extortion proceeds are sent up the chain of command to key regional gangs including Barrio 18, Mara Salvatrucha, and Los Paisas, which perpetuates the cycle of violence.
Previous attempts to bring the extortion rackets under control have been unsuccessful.
The violence and extortion problem contribute to the flight of illegal immigrants toward North America. Human smuggling “coyotes” have successfully recruited children to make the trip, telling them that they would be granted legal status in the U.S. based on the Obama administration’s “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” policy. Besides, there are few opportunities locally other than joining up with the gangsters and extortionists.
The U.S., Mexico, and Northern Triangle countries have to take the extortion developments very seriously. It’s not just political and it’s not just about illegal immigration. Unchecked extortion can be a key driver in spinning a society out of control.
The amount of money involved is a growing and significant factor. The Central American gangs don’t have as much money yet as the FARC in Columbia, but they’re getting closer to that level.