A common conclusion of studies on Central America’s democracies and political economy is that the weakness of institutions and the strength of elites are a main reason for the region’s problems. Recently, a set of studies have attempted to scrutinize these elites in detail, focussing on their strategies and resources. The purpose of this article is to reflect upon what these studies can tell us about the question: what is strong when institutions are weak? I argue that in the Northern Triangle particularly the answer is elite networks and their command over and competition for the control over four sets of resources: money, means of force, information, and ideas and ideologies, including religion. A systematic study of such networks and how they interact with formal institutions may give us a more realistic view of the current state of Central American political economies.