GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - A teenage member of a violent street gang in Guatemala killed his younger brother for belonging to a rival group, police said on Friday, as the two criminal groups battle for dominance across Central America.
Hector Mazariegos, 18, who belongs to the Mara 18 gang, shot dead his 13-year-old brother Cesar, a member of the rival Mara Salvatrucha, outside the house they shared in a dangerous run-down district of Guatemala City. The younger brother wounded his sibling.
“They had been arguing for a few days when it built up to a fire-fight in the street,” police spokesman Marco Trejo told Reuters.
Hector Mazariegos was captured a few blocks from the scene. He was treated for bullet wounds in hospital while under police guard.
Trejo said both brothers had tattoos showing their allegiance to the rival gangs.
Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are overrun with violent youth gangs known as ‘maras’ that trace their roots to Salvadoran immigrants on the streets of Los Angeles in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Mara Salvatrucha and the Mara 18 are the two largest gangs, with members often tattooing their faces with gang signs and killing rivals with gruesome beheadings or execution-style shootings.
Authorities in Guatemala say gang members are responsible for extortions, assaults and murders, which make the country one of the most violent in Latin America with more than 6,000 homicides last year in a population of just 13 million people.
Guatemala is still scarred by a 1960-1996 civil war between leftist guerrillas and the government that killed nearly a quarter of a million people. Families were sometimes caught on both sides of the violent struggle.
Reporting by Sarah Grainger; Editing by Bill Trott