TODAY NICARAGUA (Reuters) – Victor Toruno was just 12 when he ran away from an abusive father to join a local street gang in Nicaragua, graduating from thief to drug dealer.
After stints in jail and treatment and therapy for drug addiction, he took part in a rehabilitation and training programme run by a charity group and now runs a small bakery in Managua where he employs other youths who have escaped gang life.
It is a far cry from the fate of 17-year-old Jorge who lives just 150 miles (240 km) away in neighbouring Honduras, surrounded by gang members in a neighborhood where nine people were murdered in three months, including a 22-year-old relative.
Jorge rarely ventures out into the streets and dreams of riding a migration wave north to the United States.
For relative neighbours, they live worlds apart.
Both countries are among the most impoverished in the Americas, but Honduras is also blighted with the world’s highest murder rate, at 90.4 homicides per 100,000 people, according to the United Nations, while Nicaragua’s rate is just 11.3.