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Three Central American countries could form a huge anti-gang force

Honduras is trying to get El Salvador and Guatemala on board the idea of a tri-national force to fight the gangs. The plan is inspired by the controversial crackdown currently underway in El Salvador.

by Alan Hernandez
Aug 10 2016, 4:30pm

Imagen por Ulises Rodriguez/EPA

Honduras is trying to persuade neighboring El Salvador and Guatemala to create a tri-national force that can combat the street gangs that run rampant in the three Central American nations.

"Given that we are suffering the same problems we should organize a joint effort so that we can work more closely and effectively," Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández told reporters in the northern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula on Tuesday.

President Hernández added that he believed the new regional force should include the national police forces of each country, the armed forces, the immigration authorities, and the intelligence services.

He also said he had already already spoken about the plan with Guatemala's President Jimmy Morales and El Salvador's President Salvador Sánchez Cerén.

Also speaking on Tuesday, although in the capital Tegucigalpa, the Honduran president's chief of staff gave more details about the plan for a regional response to the gangs, which are dominated by the Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13, and the Barrio 18.

Reinaldo Sánchez painted a picture of a time when all three countries — often referred to collectively as the Northern Triangle — were able to enforce joint arrest orders and fast track extradition. He also talked about a special tri-national witness protection program, and close collaboration on controlling communications inside the prisons where gang members are held.

He proposed the standardization of legislation across the region in order to make it all "hostile territory" for criminals.

The Honduran initiative is explicitly inspired by the controversial crackdown on the gangs currently underway in El Salvador that Sánchez said has brought "significant progress."

The measures this year include the authorization to use lethal force and the creation of a special unit to pursue criminals into rural areas where they could be laying low. El Salvadoran legislature also approved reforms to classify the gangs as terrorist organizations.

Last month, the authorities boasted they had carried out an unprecedented attack on gang financial networks with the arrest of 75 alleged members and associates of the MS-13 gang in a series of raids. Activists claim some of those arrested were targeted because they have been documenting human rights violations.

Follow Alan Hernández on Twitter: @alanpasten

Watch: Gangs of El Salvador (Full Length)

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