Has Guatemala Turned a Corner With Fall in Homicides?

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    The Guatemalan government announced that the murder rate has fallen under outgoing president Alvaro Colom, moving against the current of public opinion which believes that the security situation has actually worsened under his administration.

    The Interior Minister, Carlos Menocal, stated that the homicide rate had fallen from 46 per 100,000 of the population in 2008 to 38.61 in 2011. He said that the strengthening of state institutions, the purging of corrupt elements from the police force and professionalization of investigations and intelligence operations have “borne important fruit,” reflected in the fall in the murder rate.

    The murder rate in this nation of 14.7 million still runs at 16 per day. The regional average, which is 33 homicides per 100,000, is the highest in the world. However there is clear evidence that some of the violence has migrated to neighboring Honduras which currently registers a homicide rate over 80 per 100,000 of the population.

    InSight Crime Analysis

    The statistics firstly need to be confirmed by independent study, but even if they do prove to be accurate, this cannot be seen as an indication that Guatemala has turned a corner in its fight against crime. While the drop is significant, Guatemala remains one of the more dangerous nations on earth and is still a key transit nation for cocaine heading from the Andes to the US, something that is unlikely to change in the near future. There are also indications that Guatemala is becoming a production nation for drugs

    While one hopes that an improvement in Guatemalan law enforcement has taken place and had an effect, there could be other explanations for a fall in murders. One could be that there has been a consolidation of national and international criminal syndicates in certain parts the country. Fighting between rival gangs is one of the primary generators of violence in Central America and there are indications that for example the Mexican Zetas have consolidated their hold on parts of northern Guatemala, and now exercise a criminal hegemony there.

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