After the Gold Rush: Colombian Town Counts Cost of Illegal Mining Boom

For five years, the town of Buriticá in northern Colombia was consumed by a gold fever that turned the sleepy mountainside village into a stronghold of illegal mining, mafiosos and armed groups. Following the biggest anti-mining operation in Colombia's history, that gold rush is now over. But for Buriticá there is no going back; this is now a mining town. And the industry involves Colombia's most powerful crime group, the Urabeños.

Read more ...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges of a post-conflict Colombia more evident, and perhaps no other part of the world is more indicative of how an economy can be fueled by the production and trafficking of cocaine. With villages that are dependent on the transformation of coca leaf into base paste, a port that connects local and international criminal actors, and rivers that serve as unguarded transportation routes for coca going north, Nariño truly is at the heart of everything.  

Read more ...

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla, Zacapa, and Chiquimula. The northern department of Petén, which encompasses nearly a third of the country's land mass, also routinely has some of the highest homicide rates.[1]

Read more ...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

Read more ...

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some of these forms go into paper files. Others go into computer files. Some of them are summarized and sent to headquarters. Others remain at precinct or even sub-precinct level. As will become evident, much of it is quickly buried amidst a pile of papers that will literally fade with time, or within a computer file, which will most likely be erased or lost by the next person who has that job.

Read more ...