Mara-Inspired Gangs Take Root in North Nicaragua

Mara-Inspired Gangs Take Root in North Nicaragua

A report highlights a shift in gang activity in northern Nicaragua, where local groups are copying the style of, and making contact with, the MS13 and Barrio 18 street gangs found in Central America’s violent “Northern Triangle.”

Since 2008, the city of Somoto has seen the rise of around 10 well-organized gangs whose members identify themselves with the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18 street gangs, or “maras,” reported La Prensa

According to La Prensa, there are a total of 570 gang members operating in the city, who perpetrate armed robberies and extort pedestrians, taxi drivers and truck drivers. Members have prominent tattoos, and leave gang graffiti around neighborhoods they claim to control, in the style of the maras.

- payin the bills -

Gang members who spoke to La Prensa on the condition of anonymity stated that the groups maintain ties with gangs in neighboring countries. They said that members cross into El Salvador and make contact with the MS13, which contracts them to carry out robberies.

Two Salvadoran MS13 members have been arrested in the Somoto region in recent years, and both allegedly had made contact with local gangs, according to La Prensa.

InSight Crime Analysis

The MS13 and Barrio 18 are powerful in the “Northern Triangle” of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and contribute to high levels of violence in these countries. The southern part of Central America — Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama — has far lower levels of violent crime, due in part to the lack of violent, territorial groups like the maras.

Although Nicaragua has one of the region’s lowest homicide rates and has been hailed as a security success story, reports of ties between local criminal groups and Northern Triangle gangs suggest that insecurity in the turbulent neighboring countries may be spilling over the border.  

- paying the bills -

SEE ALSO: MS13 Profile

The reports of Northern Triangle maras contracting out low-level criminal tasks to gangs in Nicaragua are plausible, but may not be a cause for concern about these groups joining forces. At the next level up, transnational drug trafficking groups are thought to have a similar relationship with the maras, paying them to protect drug shipments or carry out contract killings, but this has not led to deeper integration between the groups.

The MS13 and Barrio 18 have very loose organizational structures, with little coordination between local units, or “cliques,” and it would take much more than a few isolated transactions for these groups to develop a permanent presence in Nicaragua. However, reports of local groups imitating the maras’ tactics, in terms of use of violence and territorial control, could be an indication of emerging homegrown mara groups.

Meanwhile, authorities in Panama have identified 194 gangs operating in the country, with a total of 4,200 members, reported Critica. Since President Juan Carlos Varela implemented an amnesty program in July, 1,302 gang members have reportedly taken advantage of the initiative to disarm.

  • Nicaragua
  • MS13
  • Barrio 18

    Related Articles

    Nicaragua still the country with the greatest mobility in Central America in times of pandemic

    TODAY NICARAGUA - Eight months after the first case of Covid-19...

    Nicaragua restores 95% electricity service

    TODAY NICARAGUA - After the damages caused by Hurricane Iota a...

    MOST READ

    Rosario Murillo: La Heredera (The Heiress)

    Rosarion Murillo, the "eternally loyal" to her husband and political partner, Daniel Ortega. In a profile by Confidencial in October 2016, before her election as...

    Better Air Connectivity Between Nicaragua and the US

    The private companies' association is in talks with United Airlines to promote the opening of a route that connects Nicaragua with the east coast...

    Nicaragua Unveils Central America’s Largest Baseball Stadium

    Nicaragua has unveiled its long-awaited baseball stadium in Managua, replacing the former baseball field built in 1948. The new structure will hold up to...

    Bianca Jagger Gets Into The Nicaragua Act Again

    (American Thinker)  Remember Bianca Jagger? You know, the disco queen and former rock-star's wife turned leftwing "human rights activist" who was last seen mourning...

    What Are Some of Nicaragua’s Popular Food?

    TODAY NICARAGUA - Nicaragua is an interesting place, with a tumultuous history and a relatively peaceful present. and even if many things can be...

    Nicaragua Praised by the IMF

    The IMF noted the positive evolution of all the country's economic indicators, and the drastic fall in poverty, with an increase of 33% in...

    Poll Shows Declining Expectations on a Nicaraguan Canal

    According to the results of the most recent survey conducted by Cid Gallup, the Nicaraguan interoceanic canal project, a concession given to the Chinese...

    Let's Keep This Going!

    To be updated with all the latest news and information about Nicaragua and Latin America.

    Log In

    Forgot password?

    Forgot password?

    Enter your account data and we will send you a link to reset your password.

    Your password reset link appears to be invalid or expired.

    Log in

    Privacy Policy

    Add to Collection

    No Collections

    Here you'll find all collections you've created before.