San Diego International Law Journal

Library of Congress Authority File


Document Type



Country conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras will require U.S. courts to address complex protection law issues involving current and former gang members, as well as their victims. For example, just three months after the Seventh Circuit's decision, the Sixth Circuit also held that former gang members were a particular social group. In order to ensure proper handling of these cases, advocates, adjudicators, government attorneys, and judges must acquire a high level of understanding of gangs and violence in the affected countries. To facilitate this process, this paper will synthesize and analyze publicly available information on gangs and violence in Central America. The information will be categorized into the following sections: (1) gang origins and structure; (2) gang recruitment, initiation and disassociation; (3) gang crimes and links to organized crime; and (4) social perception, state response, and the resurgence of clandestine death squads. An understanding of this information should incline the courts to grant protection to deserving individuals, to wit victims, and not members or former members of the criminal class, irrespective of their membership in a creatively crafted particular social group.