Crime in Guatemala

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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."[1]

Crime dynamics[edit]

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).[2] 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."[3]

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".[3] 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.[3]

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.[4] The inquiry had blamed the Guatemalan army for 90% of the war's 200,000 killings.[4] Gerardi also found links between the military and the illegal drug trade in Guatemala, providing an additional motivation.[4] 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.[4]

Khalil Musa, a wealthy Lebanese immigrant businessman, and his daughter Marjorie Musa, who were shot and killed in April 2009.[3] 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.”[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "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..
  2. ^ WC Prillaman (2003), "Crime, democracy, and development in Latin America," Policy Papers on the Americas
  3. ^ a b c d e A Murder Foretold, Unravelling the ultimate political conspiracy. by David Grann. 2011 April 04
  4. ^ a b c d Arana, Ana, "The New Battle for Central America", Foreign Affairs, Vol. 80, No. 6 (Nov. - Dec., 2001), pp. 88-101