Published in Tico Times on 18th of April 2015
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — It all started with a phone call. The man on the line said he was part of the Mara Salvatrucha gang and asked for money in exchange for the gang’s protection. Carlos owns a car wash in one of the upper-middle class districts in the western part of the capital. He did not want his real name or the name of his business to appear in print for fear of retaliation.
Carlos said he couldn’t afford the $100 per week the gang demanded. The criminals had guessed his income too high. The man kept calling, though, so Carlos went to the police with his phone. The police’s anti-extortion unit listened in on one of the conversations and advised Carlos to change his number and forget about everything. As long as there was no culprit they could catch in the act, there was no case, the police told him.