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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 July 2007, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
US pledges $1m to help curb gangs
A police officer guards a cuffed gang member in San Salvador, El Salvador
Violent Central American street gangs are known as maras
The US is to spend $1m (490,000) to help governments in Central America and Mexico combat violent criminal gangs.

State department official Thomas Shannon made the pledge while in Guatemala to sign a regional security-sharing agreement.

The money will be spent on improving intelligence sharing and co-operation, and police training.

Gangs are considered responsible for raising crime and murder rates in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Drug link

Mr Shannon said the violent criminal groups, know as maras, were also involved in drug trafficking.

The US Drug Enforcement Agency says about much as 75% of Colombian cocaine passes through Central America on its way to the US.

However, the aid package is minor when compared with the investment Washington makes in Colombian security, which stands at more than $500m a year, correspondents say.

Mr Shannon said once security co-operation was improved, it would be easier to convince the US Congress to increase aid.

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13 Jul 06 |  Americas
Central America bid to curb gangs
28 Feb 06 |  Americas
Gang arrests over Salvador deaths
24 Jan 06 |  Americas
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20 Sep 05 |  Americas
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07 Sep 05 |  Americas
Combating El Salvador's gangs
20 Mar 04 |  Americas

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