Guatemala Points to Security Gains Under Perez

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Law enforcement special task forces in Guatemala claimed credit for breaking up dozens of low-level gangs and reducing homicides by about 10 percent in 2012, an announcement that will likely form part of a year-end push to highlight the security gains made under President Otto Perez. 

The Ministry of Government, which oversees the police force, said that the task forces dismantled 85 gangs and arrested 2,202 people between January and November of this year. The gangs were dedicated to criminal activities like extortion, cell phone and car theft, and acting as killers-for-hire, as Prensa Libre reports

The law enforcement task forces that answer to the Ministry of Government include an anti-extortion unit, an anti-kidnapping unit, and a unit that focuses on homicides and hired killings. 

The head of one task force created this year, dedicated to reducing Guatemala’s femicide rates, told Prensa Libre that it had dismantled a total of eight criminal organizations that have committed femicides. The task force had previously claimed credit for putting the country on track for a 10 percent drop in female murders compared to 2011. 

Another special Ministry of Government and police task force created this year, dedicated to combating cell phone theft, reports arresting 73 people and seizing 3,419 stolen cell phones between January and November 2012. 

InSight Crime Analysis

By pointing to the achievements of its special task forces, the Ministry of Government is contributing to the larger argument that Guatemala has seen some significant security gains during the first year of President Otto Perez’s administration. Police said that homicides have dropped some 10 percent compared to last year, with a total of 5,276 homicides registered between January and November, compared to a total of 5,886 murders registered for all of 2011. This continues a steady decline in murder rates that first began under President Alvaro Colom. 

The fact that Guatemala’s law enforcement claims to have arrested more than 2,000 people so far in 2012 is a poor marker of progress. The number of arrests is less significant than the number of suspected lawbreakers who actually face just and efficient trials. In that area, Guatemala’s institutions have also pointed to some progress. Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz said that impunity in court cases has dropped from 90 percent to 70 percent, with 5,941 convictions secured this year, compared to 5,215 in 2011. it is still a high number, but it would seem in this respect that Guatemala is moving in the right direction.

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