Today, extortion is the most feared and despised of criminal businesses in Central America, and one of the most common. Gangs are widely blamed as the central culprits of extortion, but, as this chapter argues, they are merely the most visible edge of a cannibalistic approach to survival that is tearing Central American societies apart. Following in the maras footsteps, this chapter maps Guatemala City’s expanding geographies of extortion to trace the entanglements between the evolution of gang extortion rackets, the profits of the extortion economy, and collective efforts to cast and recast a sense of certainty upon extortion’s terror. After assessing the causes and consequences of the maras’ embrace of extortion, it traces how private security corporations and financial institutions, among others, profit from extortion. It then discusses how the struggle to fix collective fears of extortion by way of the maras gives rise to diverse opportunities for material gain through terror for a diverse set of actors willing and able to copy the maras’ approach.
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