State of Siege: Voices from Guatemala

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On December 19, the government of Guatemala declared a state of siege in the central province of Alta Verapaz, in an attempt to quell the rising levels of violence and slow the growth of organized criminal syndicates in the region. The measure included some 400 extra army troops and a complete turnover of the police, which numbered 250.

Like much of Guatemala, Alta Verapaz is largely an indigenous region, in this case dominated by the Q’eqchi (pronounced Kek-chee) Mayans. These same Q’eqchi suffered some of the worst repression at the hands of the Guatemalan military during the onset of the civil war that tore this country apart for 30 years before the government and leftist rebels signed a peace settlement in 1996.

Nonetheless, the public posture, at least via the radio program “Kutan Rajlal,” which means “day to day” in Q’eqchi, was largely in favor of the government’s measure to declare a state of siege. InSight Crime brings you some of those opinions below. (InSight Crime understands that this is not scientific, but also spoke to some residents of Coban, who said this reflected the general opinion in the zone.)

With the state of siege, the government is targeting the Mexican criminal group known as the Zetas, a former enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel that broke away from their masters in 2007. A group claiming to be the Zetas forced several radio stations to read a menacing communiqué on December 27, which stated that it had contributed $11.5 million to Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom’s presidential campaign and that his failure to comply with their ‘agreement’ would mean “war.”

Calls to radio “Kutan Rajlal” on Monday January 3, 2011, between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. The host asked people to give their opinion on the 30-day state of siege the government had declared in Alta Verapaz.

Call 1 (from the northern province of Petén – another area hard hit by violence and criminal activity): “For us it’s very good, because there are situations that affect as well as in Coban. There are a lot of weapons and stolen goods or contraband in people’s homes.”

Call 2: “To me, it’s good because we cannot live with all this violence. It would be good to keep the state of siege.”

Call 3: “The information you are giving is good because there are a lot of us young people who can no longer live in peace.”

Call 4: “The state of siege is good — and we had a quiet Christmas — as it affects only those who break the law.”

Call 5: “My thought is that with the state of siege you can’t be afraid. You need to carry identification, and if you’ve done nothing against the law, you have nothing to fear.”

Call 6: “I like the state of siege, but I think they need to capture those who really break the law. Many times innocent people are caught or the ones who haven’t done anything wrong. This would help us be more calm.”

Call 7: “I realize that it is good. The problem we saw in our village is that the police captured innocent people and not the drug traffickers. We saw it in the village of Chisec, for example, that the police were searching regular people. Of course, the police have the authority but not to abuse people. This happened in a lot of villages. They even imprisoned one guy. This state of siege has its advantages and disadvantages, and the people should speak out [against the disadvantages].”

Call 8: “The decree the president has made is good both in towns and in the villages. But it would be good for the authorities to investigate those who have weapons, and often use them to intimidate people. And it would be good to keep this in mind for both sides since many times it’s the police who are committing the crimes and are not properly monitored. Still, it’s nice to have a bit more peace.”

Call 9: “[The state of siege] has its advantages, since the thieves and the violence have increased. But the police didn’t do a good job, and that’s why the violence went up. They should make sure the police stick to their jobs and not just do it for a month. The state of siege should go on for months.”

Original Text:

Opiniones de Radioescuchas Programa Radial “Rajlal Kutan”

Lunes 03 de Enero 2011

Horario 7:00 a 8:00 Hrs.

Llamada 1 Petén

Para nosotros es muy bueno, ya que hay situaciones que afectan, asi como en Cobán, hay mucho armamento y cosas robadas en casas o de contrabando.

Llamada 2 Lanquin

Para mi es bueno, ya que no se puede vivir con tanta violencia, sería bueno que se mantenga el estado de Sitio.

Llamada 3 Cobán Mujer

La información que están dando esta buena, porque habemos muchos jóvenes que ya no podemos vivir en paz.

Llamada 4

El estado de sitio esta bueno, ya que pasamos tranquila la navidad, ya que afecta a los que infringen la ley, pero tengo una consulta, los que tenemos un arma en nuestra casa que nos sirve para cuidar nuestras pertenecías que podemos hacer para poder salir con arma. Únicamente muchas gracias

Llamada 5

Mi pensamiento es que; al estado de sitio no hay que tenerle miedo, se debe portar la Cedula y los documentos, y si no se tiene ningún pecado ante la ley, no se le debe tener miedo. Gracias

Llamada 6 Mujer

Me parece bien el Estado de Sitio, pero me gustaría que agarren y busquen a los que realmente infringen la ley, muchas veces capturan a personas inocentes o que no tienen delitos graves, realmente esto nos ayuda a andar tranquilos por las calles.

Llamada 7

Yo me doy cuenta que es bueno, el problema que nos dimos cuenta en nuestra aldea, es que los policías andaban capturando a personas inocentes y no a los narcotraficantes, nos pudimos dar cuenta en una aldea en Chisec, que la Policía registro a la población común, ciertamente la policía tiene autoridad pero no para abusar. Esto sucedió por cubil. Encarcelaron a uno de los señores. Tiene su ventaja y su desventaja este estado de Sitio, y el pueblo debe pronunciarse ante esto.

Llamada 8

En lo que decreto el presidente es bueno tanto en el pueblo como en las aldeas, sería muy bueno que se investigue a los que portan armas, ya que muchas veces intimidan con eso, y es bueno que este combinado esto, ya que muchos policías son los que comenten delitos y no vigilan adecuadamente. Es bueno para que haya un poco mas de tranquilidad.

Llamada 9

Tiene sus ventajas, ya que los ladrones y los violentos han incrementado, pero los policías no realizan bien su trabajo por eso incrementa la violencia. Se debe exigir el cumplimiento del trabajo de la Policía y que no se quede en solo un mes el estado de sitio si no que se aumente a otros meses mas.

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