Crime in Guatemala
Rates of crime in Guatemala are very high. "Guatemala has one of the highest violent crime rates in Latin America. In 2009, approximately 25 murders a week were reported in Guatemala City alone."
In the 1990s Guatemala had four cities feature in Latin America's top ten cities by murder rate: Escuintla (165 per 100,000), Izabal (127), Santa Rosa Cuilapa (111) and Guatemala City (101). According to New Yorker magazine, in 2009, fewer civilians were reported killed in the war zone of Iraq than were shot, stabbed, or beaten to death in Guatemala, and 97% of homicides "remain unsolved."
The high rate of murder has been blamed on "a highly powerful criminal cartel", made up of politically connected retired military officers and linking with drug traffickers and other criminals. Following the end of Guatemalan Civil War in 1996, a general amnesty was granted "for even the worst crimes, leaving no one accountable". The Guatemalan "security apparatus — death squads, intelligence units, police officers, military counter-insurgency forces — did not disappear but, rather, mutated into criminal organizations," and now are engaged "in arms trafficking, money laundering, extortion, human smuggling, black-market adoptions, and kidnapping for ransom," and drug trade.
Some high profile murders revealed or suspected to be the work of the cartel include that of Catholic Bishop Juan José Gerardi Conedera, beaten to death in 1998, two days after the conclusion of an inquiry he had led into the violence of the civil war. The inquiry had blamed the Guatemalan army for 90% of the war's 200,000 killings. Gerardi also found links between the military and the illegal drug trade in Guatemala, providing an additional motivation. In 1997 a large group of active military figures, including the deputy Minister of Defense, were found to be involved with the Colombian Cali cartel's smuggling efforts.
Khalil Musa, a wealthy Lebanese immigrant businessman, and his daughter Marjorie Musa, who were shot and killed in April 2009. Khalil Musa reportedly knew president Álvaro Colom, an advisor of whom told an American journalist that, “if the Musas could be killed, there was a sense that anyone [in Guatemala] could be.”
Guatemala links Honduras and Mexico along common drug routes between Central America and the United States. Its long, un-patrolled coastline and sparse jungles make it a popular landing point for boats and planes carrying drugs from South America, while its borders are understaffed and ill-equipped to fully exert customs controls.
Greater regional efforts to crack down on narcotics trade has merely diverted the transport routes and methods used. According to the International Crisis Group, Guatemala had been “a primary landing zone for narcotics-laden flights” until U.S.-supported interdiction efforts disrupted illegal flight shipments and forced traffickers to use land routes instead. From 2006, Mexico’s crackdown on drug trafficking pushed cartel operations to import cocaine through Central America instead, and a majority of cocaine departing South America now travels through the northern regions of Central America to reach U.S. markets.
The lack of effective law enforcement following the 2009 coup also contributed to the growth of narcotics smuggling. The post-coup regime kept a majority of Guatemalan security forces in the capital, leaving regional law enforcement under-supported. Wealthy traffickers often assume the role of de facto authorities in such areas.
- "Guatemala: Country-Specific Information". U.S. Department of State (November 23, 2009). Accessed January 18, 2009. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain..
- WC Prillaman (2003), "Crime, democracy, and development in Latin America," Policy Papers on the Americas
- A Murder Foretold, Unravelling the ultimate political conspiracy. by David Grann. newyorker.com 2011 April 04
- Arana, Ana, "The New Battle for Central America", Foreign Affairs, Vol. 80, No. 6 (Nov. - Dec., 2001), pp. 88-101
- International Crisis Group. "Corridor of Violence: The Guatemala-Honduras Border". CrisisGroup.org. 4 June 2014. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
- International Crisis Group. "Guatemala: Drug Trafficking and Violence", CrisisGroup.org. 11 October 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2014.