Francisco Campos holds a candle in a jail in Villa
Nueva, a poor neighborhood of Guatemala City, June 27, 2003. Campos is a
member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, captured extorting money from the buses
in the area, which paid $2 a day for "protection."
that trace their roots back to the hard streets of U.S. cities are thriving
in Guatemala, drawing blame for a wave of murders and other crimes that grip
its shantytowns. Gang culture sprang up in Central America after gang members
in immigrant communities in Los Angeles and elsewhere were deported to their
homelands for committing crimes in the United States. The National Police
have begun a new anti-gang operation called "Plan Escoba" (The
Broom Plan) to combat gang violence.