The Complete Organized Crime Database on the Americas
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.
The extradited former head of Guatemala's Lorenzana criminal organization has pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges after reportedly being offered a deal by US authorities, something likely to become commonplace as more and more Guatemalan criminals are extradited to the United States.
At least 700 people have been killed in Guatemala so far this year for failing to pay extortion fees, according to a local watchdog group, a number that underscores the enormous scale and impact of the crime.
If the conviction of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt on genocide charges represented the opportunity for Guatemala's justice system to right its historical wrongs, the annulment of the sentence and the virtual removal of Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz was a harsh call to return to the status quo. Judges living in fear, hidden negotiations and elite networks ensure "justice" remains in line with corrupt interests.
A news report has shed light on how 1,449 grenades were stolen from a Guatemala military cache in 2013 and sold to drug trafficking organizations, a case that -- as is common in countries in the region -- points right back to the armed forces themselves.
In a decision that most local media ignored, a judge prohibited former Guatemala Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz from leaving the country, and froze her bank accounts, in what appears to be a backlash against the former prosecutor for bringing judicial cases against the country's elites.
A recent report indicates that Guatemala's prisons are at 280 percent over capacity, a problem exacerbated by poor management, which is feeding growing criminality within the penitentiary system, and effectively handing inmates control over many installations.