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El Salvador's gang culture




An elite police officer arrests an alleged member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang in San Juan Opico, La Libertad, 40 km West of San Salvador, El Salvador, on April 10, 2008. Police forces set up an anti-gang operation at dawn to capture suspect murderers and extortionists who operated in the area.
An elite police officer arrests an alleged member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang in San Juan Opico, La Libertad, 40 km West of San Salvador, El Salvador, on April 10, 2008. Police forces set up an anti-gang operation at dawn to capture suspect murderers and extortionists who operated in the area.
JOSE CABEZAS/AFP/Getty Images

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When people think of drug-related violence south of the border, they usually think of Mexico. But El Salvador's homicide rate is more than triple the current rate in Mexico due to the violent "maras," or gangs. The situation has become dire, with 38 percent in poverty, a bankrupt government and a paralyzed economy. Tens of thousands of Salvadorans have joined organized crime, helping drugs come north to markets in the U.S.

Journalist Alma Guillermoprieto, who has spent more than 30 years reporting in Latin America, talks to Madeleine about the situation in El Salvador. She wrote about the subject in the Nov. 10 issue of the New York Review of Books.

Guest:

Alma Guillermoprieto, journalist who frequently contributes to the New York Review of Books. Her newest article on the gangs of El Salvador can be found here.