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

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

In October 2012, the US Treasury Department designated the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a transnational criminal organization (TCO). While this assertion seems unfounded, there is one case that illustrates just why the US government is worried about the future.

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 leader Carlos Lechuga Mojica, alias "El Viejo Lin," is one of the most prominent spokesmen for El Salvador's gang truce. InSight Crime co-director Steven Dudley spoke with Mojica in Cojutepeque prison in October 2012 about how the maras view the controversial peace process, which has...

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

Ricardo Mauricio Menesses Orellana liked horses, and the Pasaquina rodeo was a great opportunity to enjoy a party. He was joined at the event -- which was taking place in the heart of territory controlled by El Salvador's most powerful drug transport group, the Perrones -- by the...

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

On May 27, 1964 up to one thousand Colombian soldiers, backed by fighter planes and helicopters, launched an assault against less than fifty guerrillas in the tiny community of Marquetalia. The aim of the operation was to stamp out once and for all the communist threat in...

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

While there is no doubt that the FARC have only a tenuous control over some of their more remote fronts, there is no evidence of any overt dissident faction within the movement at the moment.

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

When considering the possibilities that the FARC may break apart, the Ivan Rios Bloc is a helpful case study because it is perhaps the weakest of the FARC's divisions in terms of command and control, and therefore runs the highest risk of fragmentation and criminalization.

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

If we are to believe the Colombian government, the question is not if, but rather when, an end to 50 years of civil conflict will be reached. Yet the promise of President Juan Manuel Santos that peace can be achieved before the end of 2014 is simply...

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

The United States -- which through its antinarcotics, judicial and police attaches was very familiar with the routes used for smuggling, and especially those used for people trafficking and understood that those traffickers are often one and the same -- greeted the new government of Elias Antonio...