The Central America’s Northern Triangle has many common factors that explain their economic circumstances and violence. The root causes of poverty and crime in Central America are drug trafficking, gang activities, corruption, and ineffectiveness of U.S. policies.

Despite the continued assistance from the United States, high crime rates and homicides remain in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. As reported by the authors of the Woodrow Wilson Center Report, there have been higher demands of drugs such as cocaine by the United States. This immensely contributes to drug trafficking and violence in the Northern Triangle. In addition, gang activities, partly due to U.S. deportation policy during the 1990s and trafficking of firearms, in Central America have taken a better control of communities and neighborhoods. Thus, weak law enforcement also enables the levels of drug trafficking and gang activities to persist.

It should also be noted that an important cause of poverty and crime is corruption. The CARSI (Central America Regional Security Initiative) program, adopted by the Obama Administration, has been more concerned with the “generalized corruption and impunity within the justice system” (8, Wilson Center Report). Corruption in Central America has been more difficult to eliminate despite the U.S.’ assistance in institutional reforms. As described in “Former Honduran Cabinet member accused in U.S. of laundering drug money” article, corruption still exists. With the lack of commitment from the host government, corruption is another battle to be tackled in Central American countries.

The U.S. policy-makers should pay more detailed attention to corruption, law enforcement, to the youth gangs in communities, the host government’s commitment to attack these interconnected factors, and drug trafficking, especially with neighboring countries such as Mexico.

Works Cited:

“CRIME AND VIOLENCE IN CENTRAL AMERICA’S NORTHERN TRIANGLE: How U.S. Policy Responses are Helping, Hurting, and can be Improved.” https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/crime-and-violence-in-central-americas-northern-triangle-how-us-responses-are


“Former Honduran Cabinet member accused in US of laundering drug money.” http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-84666069/



  1. Interesting point. However, I think its important to regard a key point which the wilson report made quite clear, is the impact that a lack of education can have on both persisting lack of economic opportunity, and increased crime rates. The report indicated that education can help provide “a safe, productive, supervised environment,” (Wilson Report, 280); as opposed to joining gangs as a means of job acquisition. Moreover, education has the inherent benefit of, as the wilson report put this, “individuals with more education obtain better jobs and are less likely to risk the punitive sanctions of criminal behavior,” (Wilson Report, 280). Therefore, I feel it is crucial to include a lack of funding directed at educational programs in these countries as a key area that needs improvement. Obviously, your point about government investment (the governments within the northern triangle), contributes to this point. If they are not invested in such programs and held accountable, then such improvements may be entirely for naught.

  2. I agree with your factors leading to crime and poverty, however I think that unemployment is another key factor. Unemployment is rampant in Central America, as illustrated by Enrique’s Journey. Since so many people are unemployed, they are forced to sell odds and ends such as gum and tortillas on the street, for which they make little money. Children often drop out of school in order to help their parents make money and provide for their families. Families make so little money that they often go hungry. People often turn to drugs, such as sniffing glue in order to mask their hunger, which only worsens drug problems and crime.

  3. I agree with a large portion of your points but I think it is important to add that the problem with CARSI or other US policies that attempt to solve the problem may not be corruption but simply choosing bad solutions. In my opinion, the way the USA evaluates the solutions is the problem. CARSI is being evaluated based off quantifiable numbers such as arrests per year or amount of drugs, while it should be attempting to better the community through shelters, better education, and other homegrown solutions. Instead the police force has become overly militarized and hopes to stop the problem by simply arresting all of the criminals and seizing all the drugs. This is not a viable solution and is currently the reason the problems in the Northern Triangle remain as bad as ever. The USA must stop evaluating based simply off numbers if they ever want to change the economy and violence of this currently fruitless region.

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