A bus waits for passengers in Guatemala

Murders of public transport drivers in Guatemala more than doubled in the first six months of 2013 compared to the same period last year, a sign of rising peril in what is already one of the world's most dangerous professions.

A total of 97 bus, taxi and mototaxi drivers have been killed so far this year compared to 46 in the first six months of 2012, according to government figures reported by EFE.

Murders of women have also risen in the same period, from 263 in January to June 2012 to 354 this year. Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla attributed this to a rise in women's involvement in crime, reported Prensa Libre.

Meanwhile, a Public Ministry spokesperson said trash collectors and prostitutes working in the center of Guatemala City were being extorted by gangs. Up to $100 is being demanded from trash collectors weekly, while prostitutes are "taxed" between $15 and $20, according to officials.

InSight Crime Analysis

According to the government's figures, Guatemala has seen a rise in all murders of around 7.5 percent during the first half of 2013 compared to 2012, following a significant drop in the homicide rate over the last three years. However the massive leap in deaths of transport workers goes far beyond this, illustrating how drivers face disproportionate levels of danger. According to trade association Coordinadora Nacional de Transporte, more than a thousand drivers were killed by organized criminals between 2006 and 2012.

Extortion is a major income source for the principal street gangs in Guatemala, the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18, as well as smaller organizations, and transport workers are an easy target. The fact that even low-income street workers are being targeted illustrates just how entrenched extortion is at all levels of Guatemalan society.

The rise in the number of murders of women also exceeds the overall upwards trend in murders, but it is dangerous to write this off as simply a result of more women becoming involved in crime, as the minister attempted to do. 

One theory for the uptick in murders is that the maras are attempting to show their strength in order to pressure the government into giving gang leaders special treatment in jails or even agree to negotiations like those seen in El Salvador.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
Prev Next

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla -- a decorated war hero and a longtime US ally -- finds himself treading water amidst a flurry of accusations about corruption and his connections to drug traffickers. López Bonilla is not the most well-known suspect in the cases against...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...