Electoral Violence Escalates in Guatemala

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It is estimated that 38 people have died so far in the run-up to the Guatemalan 2011 general elections, an even higher number than was recorded during 2007 contest.

The head of Guatemalan Civil Rights Office (Procuraduría de Derechos Humanos) has described the current level of violence as “alarming,” and likely to worsen over the coming month, prior to the September 11 vote. An advisor to the presidential candidate Otto Perez Molina, who is currently tipped as the favourite to win, was also gunned down recently, along with his son.

According to Guatemalan NGO, Mirador Electoral, the pre-election period presents “high levels of danger” in at least 24 of the country’s 333 municipalities, due to the presence of criminal groups. As reported by Insight Crime, Mexican criminal gangs such as the Zetas have been stepping up their presence in Guatemala, which could explain the higher level of pre-election violence this year.

During a state visit to Mexico last month, Guatemalan president Álvaro Colom described drug trafficking groups as posing a major concern to the electoral process, and in an interview with La Jornada, voiced worries about drug traffickers attempting to recuperate influence “on every level” during the election period.

Guatemala currently has one of the highest levels of violence in the world, with 42 percent all crimes attributed to drug trafficking.

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