"Northern Triangle" Training Materials for Asylum Officers

by David L. Cleveland

US-CIS, in response to a FOIA lawsuit by the Louise Trauma Center, released 162 pages of  “Northern Triangle” training materials, dated January 2020, that it gave to its asylum officers. This article will quote some of the material. The pages are available on the “Asylum Officer Materials” page at www.louisetrauma.weebly.com, entitled “Northern Triangle 2020.”



-had a civil war 1979-1992

Gangs were established in Los Angeles. A gang truce in 2014[?] resulted in reduction in homicides from 14 per day to 6 per day. Page 9 of 162.

Gangs have members, collaborators, and sympathizers. Page 12. Two big gangs are Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18.

Today, “decreasing use of tattoos,” and dressing “more discretely,” to avoid identification as gang members. Page 14. But, certain shoes, clothing, and haircuts are “restricted to gang members.” Page 16.

Some recruitment is “half-voluntary/half forced.” Page 18.

In 2018, one femicide every 24 hours. Page 23. 3% of court cases involving violence against women ended in guilty verdicts between 2016 and 2017. Page 115.

The “family” is the “fundamental basis of society (per Constitution).” Page 26.


POLICIA NACIONAL CIVIL (PNC) has poor relations with the community. Page 28.

There is “gang surveillance of police stations.” Page 33.


There are grupos de extermino : death squads, who dress as or similar to police/military. Page 35.

Some gangs are national and have sophisticated communication networks. Page 37.



Anti-government protests started in April 2019. Page 39.

Some gangs are linked to political candidates and the “political elite.” Page 41.

Transportitas are powerful organized crime groups. Page 127. Bandas are armed criminals who are different from gangs: more sophisticated and experienced. Page 128.

There is violence against women, girls, and LGBTI. Maria Jose Alvarado was shot 16 times, and Sofia Trinidad Alvarado was shot 8 times by jealous boyfriend. Page 132.

Islenos (Bay Island Creoles) lost land and is marginalized. Page 49.


FAMILY: a “fundamental social unit” Page 51.


POLICIA NACIONAL DE HONURAS (HNP) has always been suspected of complicity in drug trafficking and extortion. Page 53. Infiltrated and/or controlled by gangs. Page 55. The police often refuse to accept denuncias. Page 142.



There are “Illegal Clandestine Security Apparatuses” (CIACS), that provide services to organized crime groups. Page 64.

CICIG : International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala: investigated crime, but created enemies of politicians, including President Jimmy Morales. Page 68.  Judges and prosecutors have been threatened. Congress investigated CICIG. Page 74.


Transportistas are powerful organized crime groups. Page 77.

Femicides: two women violently killed each day. Page 81. “Only country in the region with no legal incentive to incorporate women into political life.” Page 152.

Indigenous groups are 40-60% of the population. Page 83.

Land rights: there are 800,000 landless families. Page 149.

Family: “forms the basis of society.” Page 85.

Policia Nacional Civil (PNC) : infiltrated by organized crime. Page 88.

There are “non-state groups” that focus on community policing. Page 160.

Significant increase in vigilante groups since 2004. Page 92.


Comments of the author

            The materials mostly lack dates and sources.

About The Author

David L. Cleveland was the Chair of the AILA Asylum Committee [2004-05] and has secured asylum or withholding for persons from 48 countries. Based in Washington DC, he is available at <louise.trauma.ltc@gmail.com>

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.