On January 10, Guatemalan political scientist Carlos Mendoza tweeted a series of graphs comparing Guatemala's steadily declining homicide rates with other Latin American countries. As analyst James Bosworth observed, the resulting visuals highlight pockets of improvement across the region, as well as areas of crisis. 

It's easy to get caught up in bad news about homicide rates in this hemisphere. Certainly, El Salvador and Venezuela saw horrific increases in 2015. Yet, there is some good news, as the graphic below shows (Graphics from Carlos Mendoza, who put together several graphs comparing Guatemala to other countries in the hemisphere). Both Guatemala and Colombia have seen sustained decreases in homicide rates. Guatemala peaked in the mid-40's per 100,000 in 2006-2009 and Colombia peaked at 70 per 100,000 in 2002.

 

16-01-12-HomicideRatesGTandCO

 

There are a lot of lessons you could take from these countries (and we're all at risk of confirmation bias, explaining these success stories post-hoc justifying the policies we support), but let me provide the most important point from that graph: There is hope. High homicide rates can be decreased sustainably. These aren't temporary gains as occurred with the El Salvador gang truce that briefly halved the number of murders before causing them to spike again. While there are reasons to be concerned about potential temporary new spikes in crime in both countries, the consistent improvements in recent years show that progress can be made and sustained over many years.

SEE ALSO:  Guatemala News and Profiles

I'll add that I'm optimistic that both countries have an opportunity to consolidate these gains in the near future. Thanks to recent successes and the CICIG, Guatemala's stronger institutions are better positioned in the coming years to prosecute the corruption and organized crime that have long plagued the country. Colombia has an opportunity with the FARC peace process and subsequent Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) effort to finally end one of the key drivers of the violence in that country.

All graphs below by Carlos Mendoza. Follow him at @camendoza72 or read more of his analysis on Guatemala's homicide rates on his personal blog or his column at investigative news website Plaza Publica.

 

Guatemala Homicide Rate vs. Mexico's, 2000-2015

 

16-01-18-Guatemala-homicidesmexico

 

 

Guatemala Homicide Rate vs. Honduras', 2000-2014

 

16-01-12-Guatemala-hondurashomicides

 

Guatemala Homicide Rate vs. El Salvador, 2000-2014

 

16-01-12-Guatemala-elsalvadorhomicides

 

Guatemala Homicide Rate vs. Venezuela, 2000-2015

 

16-01-12-Guatemala-venezuelahomicides

 

 

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

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. 

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network. The BACRIM's roots lie in the demobilized paramilitary umbrella group the United Self-Defense...

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

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...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

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...