By Conchita Sarnoff of ARVT

On an ordinary Monday in May, Ellen Gonzales woke up to find a handwritten note nailed to the front door of her home in La Palma, El Salvador. Her 11-year-old son Bryan, it said, had been tocado: “selected” as a recruit for La Mara, one of the most violent of the Hispanic organised crime gangs operating across Central America and the US. She decided it was time to run. Read more

The World Bank’s private sector lending arm has been very publicly rapped over the knuckles for its handling of an investment in Honduran palm oil company Corporación Dinant, which human rights groups allege has links with death squads and the killing and torture of peasant farmers who claim the land where it operates.

But if the shaming of the IFC in an independent audit by the Office of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO) were not bad enough, Peter Chowla, co-ordinator of the UK-based Bretton Woods Project, says: “Some of the most damaging findings from this case are yet to come.” Read more

The hotly contested Honduran election still hasn’t yielded a final official result. But maybe it’s not too soon to spot some lessons Mexico might offer the Central American state.

They boil down to: “Amlo” vs “Pacto”Read more

Latin America is home to four of the five most violent countries in the world.

For an area of the world significantly richer per head than Africa and something of a hot spot for investors, this is damning.

The high crime rates are not just limited to drug-ridden basket cases like Honduras and Guatemala, either. In Brazil and Chile, crime is hitting growth, deterring business and swelling government coffers, according to a UN report released on Tuesday. Read more

Mother Nature has dealt Central America a lousy hand. Earthquakes, floods and hurricanes of biblical proportions have battered the isthmus over the years, but the latest natural disaster is a botanical one.

A plague known as “coffee rust” has hit the region’s top-quality arabica crop. Premium blends from coffee grown in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama are much loved by aficionados. Read more

Once regarded as the archetypal banana republic, the Central American republic of Honduras has become known as a classic basket case – with all due respect, as they say.

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, an impoverished population and political instability from the 2009 coup. In response, the government of Porfirio Lobo has decided to throw in the towel. Or launched a master stroke to reverse the decay, depending on whose point of view you accept. Read more

Indigenous Panamanians protest recent changes to the country's mining lawThere’s gold in them thar Central American hills. Gold and several other valuable minerals. Mining companies, especially Canadian, are courting the region yet most of the governments are playing hard to get, if not being openly hostile.

All of which must be pretty perplexing to at least some of the companies. World prices of metals remain high while Central American economies are some of the world’s most vulnerable. Surely a slam-dunk for the miners? Read more