Vigilantes Accused of Extortion in Guatemala City Suburb

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Guatemalan authorities are investigating reports that “citizen security committees” have committed abuses against civilians in a suburb of Guatemala City.

The Public Ministry is examining claims that these groups are making threats and charging extortion payments from the population of Mixco, according to Prensa Libre.

The newspaper reported that a few weeks ago the citizen security committees detained a group of police officers and Public Ministry officials, who were in the area to carry out investigative work.

InSight Crime Analysis

Both the US and Guatemalan governments have poured resources into Mixco, and the municipality saw one of the biggest drops in homicide rates in the country in 2011, falling from 62 to 48 per 100,000 inhabitants. It is the site of a US Model Precinct program, under which officers from the embassy’s Narcotics Affairs Section provide equipment and advice to the local police force, recruiting and training their officers. Recruits must complete a rigorous training program and are regularly evaluated, according to the embassy.

Last week, President Otto Perez announced the creation of a new police station in Mixco, where there are already some 349 soldiers supporting the police work.

The presence of citizen security committees, which are vigilante groups made up of local people, suggest that the authorities are not doing enough to convince locals that they are tackling crime in Mixco. Reports that these groups are committing abuses against local people are an example of how this kind of vigilanteism can blur into criminal activity. These kind of groups are present in regions across Guatemala, and have been using the Internet to out suspected criminals and threaten retribution. At least 10 people named by one of these vigilante websites, in a municipality in Peten, were later killed.

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