By Edited by Cynthia J. Arnson and Eric L. Olson, Woodrow Wilson Center. ncidents such as the May 2011 massacre on a farm Guatemala’s Petén region, resulting in the murder and decapitation of 27 people, underscore the serious threat to human rights, democratic governance, and the rule of law posed by organized crime in Central America. The international community has begun to address the burgeoning crisis and commit significant resources to the fight against crime and violence; indeed, not since the Central American wars of the 1980s has the region commanded so much attention in the international arena.
To better understand the nature, origins, and evolution of organized crime in Central America—and thereby contribute to the efforts of policy-makers and civil society to address it—the Latin American Program commissioned original research on the dynamics of organized crime in the three countries of the so-called Northern Triangle—El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—and on the broader regional context that links these case studies. The essays by Douglas Farah (El Salvador), Julie López (Guatemala), James Bosworth (Honduras), Steven Dudley, and Cynthia Arnson and Eric Olson (regional overviews) are aimed at expanding the knowledge about organized crime and the challenge it poses to the state, its institutions, and governability in general. This publication is part of a series on the sub-regional dynamics of organized crime, focusing especially on the linkages between Central America, Mexico, and the Andean region as well as the growing insertion of Latin America in global transnational crime networks.