The Complete Organized Crime Database on the Americas
As Guatemala's Congress gears up to select new Supreme Court Justices and appellate court judges, InSight Crime is investigating how organized crime influences the selection process. This story details the interests of one particular political bloc vying for control over the courts and what's at stake: millions of dollars in public money, much of which is siphoned for individual and political use, and the ability to pillage it with impunity.
As the trial begins of a Guatemalan ex-military officer accused of running a bribery ring from prison, where he is serving a sentence for a high-profile murder, phone recordings presented as evidence provide an inside look at how the scheme played out.
Officials in Guatemala have identified the areas of the capital controlled by the MS13 and Barrio 18 gangs, illustrating the degree of gang infiltration in the city with the third highest homicide rate in the world.
Records show that the United States quietly released Guatemala kingpin Otto Herrera nearly a year ago, hinting at the possibility that the cocaine trafficker has struck a deal with authorities.
A UN report puts Guatemala among the top five most violent countries in the world, with 40.6 murders for every 100,000 inhabitants. It's difficult, in this country, to imagine a life without death. However, in the world's fifth-most violent place – it's strange, but true – there are places without homicides, with just one murder in a decade. And there's others where death is overflowing. You just need to spend a few hours on a highway to see these contrasts – from Sibinal, San Marcos, to Puerto Barrios, in Izabal, for example.
The former army captain convicted of killing Bishop Juan Gerardi ran a massive bribery ring from prison, according to an investigation by Guatemala's anti-impunity commission.
Authorities in Guatemala have seized an extensive weapons cache and remotely operated explosives belonging to the country's "mara" street gangs, in an indication these groups are growing in sophistication -- a trend also seen in El Salvador and Honduras.
Asset seizure laws can be an excellent way to attack the economic power base of organized crime groups, but in Guatemala -- and other countries in the region -- a number of bureaucratic challenges have made implementation difficult.
Homicide cases involving minors in Guatemala have risen significantly in 2014, another indication of the high level of violence in the Northern Triangle region that is fueling the migration of unaccompanied children to the United States in record numbers.
Presidents in Central America have blamed US drug policy for fueling the ongoing child migrant crisis, but the violence, unemployment and underdevelopment fueling this flight has more to do with the way the elites run these countries than US actions.