80% Guatemala Murders Take Place in 25 Municipalities: President

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Over 80 percent of homicides in Guatemala take place in just 25 of the country’s 334 municipalities, according to President Otto Perez Molina, highlighting the concentrated nature of the violence sweeping the country.

The violence ridden municipalities are spread across twelve of Guatemala’s 22 departments, however, the highest number are found in the vicinity of Guatemala City, where 45 percent of murders take place, said Perez, referring to an unpublished report by state security institutions.

Perez claimed the report demonstrated the success of efforts to reduce violence, pointing to the 164 municipalities where there have been zero homicides so far this year. The president added the findings would help the government redirect forces to better focus on the country’s violence hot spots.

Perez’s figures are supported by a recent report by the Central American Business Intelligence group (CBAI), which found that in 2012, just under 80 percent of murders took place in 10 departments in Guatemala.

According to the report, the departments have an annual murder rate of 59 per 100,000 inhabitants, while the 12 other departments have a murder rate of only 13 per 100,000. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Both Perez’s statistics and the CBAI report underscore a reality in Guatemala and El Salvador: that street gang violence is probably the major motor of homicides in those countries. As opposed to organized crime-related violence, which tends to be concentrated in specific areas of strategic advantage or territorial dispute, street gang violence is concentrated in urban areas where these groups have longstanding disputes with each other over territory where they extort businesses and individuals, and sell narcotics.

That is not to say organized crime is not at the heart of violent disputes. Numerous areas, in particular drug trafficking corridors along the borders, suffer very high rates of violence and other criminal activity such as car theft.  

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