Guatemala Sees Drop in Homicides, but Criminal Threat Remains

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While Guatemala saw a significant drop in homicides in the first seven months of 2012 compared to the previous year, the country continues to face a serious problem of violence and insecurity.

Guatemala’s national forensic institute, INACIF, registered 3,410 homicides between January and July of this year. This statistic is down 7.7 percent from the same period in 2011, when there were 3,695 murders, reports EFE.

Seventy-seven percent of these crimes were committed with firearms, which is the same percentage as the previous year.

InSight Crime Analysis

In May, President Otto Perez announced that the country had seen an 18 percent drop in homicides in the first four months of this year compared to the same period in 2011. However, as InSight Crime pointed out, official police statistics put the drop closer to 2 percent.

Although Perez’s statistics may have been exaggerated, official reports do suggest that the homicide rate in Guatemala has been inching down over the past several years. Carlos Menocal, interior minister under former President Alvaro Colom, asserted in January that homicide rates fell by nearly eight per 100,000 inhabitants between 2008 and 2011, a claim that has been corroborated by both the National Police and crime analyst Carlos Mendoza.

This does not, however, mean that Guatemala is “winning” the war against criminal gangs. Its proximity to Mexico and role in the routes used by traffickers to move narcotics between South and North America mean that the country continues to be important to organized crime. Despite Perez’s promise to deal with drug trafficking with an “iron fist,” Mexican drug gangs like the Zetas continue to thrive in Guatemala.

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