CRIME IN GUATEMALA

by Tarakihi, independent researcher
June 2011

This is an extensive essay about Crime in Guatemala purporting to give a comprehensive picture of political, social and, to a certain extent, economic processes in Guatemala influenced by unprecedented outbreak of criminal activities. The essay also pretends to make an insight into socio-cultural, historical and ethnic background of modern Guatemalan society and its efforts to overcome the impact of recent armed conflict.

The essay consists of four articles each expanding on specific aspect of the subject.

1). The first article named “Crime in campuses” contains vivid quotes by Guatemalan students responding to general insecurity in the country and their aspirations for future. On the other side, this part briefly mentions an initiative undertaken by Guatemalan Universities, such as Network for Civil Intelligence (La “Red de Inteligencia Civil”). This article finishes with a summary of a brilliant lecture by Prof.Pedro Trujillo, an expert of Marroquin University, Guatemala City, containing insight into peculiarities of criminal situation in Guatemala.

2). The second article named “Violence Against Tourists” was initially designed as Travel Advice for Russian tourists travelling to Guatemala. Later it was supplemented by a brief description of Guatemala’s policies in sustainable tourism and crime statistics of incidents where U.S. tourists were involved (according to the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala). This article also contains analysis of some incidents of violence against foreign tourists in Guatemalan countryside (like the one in Todos Santos Cuchumatan, 2001) and Western tourists’ typical behavioural patterns which may trigger a conflict in indigenous villages of Guatemala.

3). The third and the main article “Guatemala Facing a Global Challenge of Crime” provides structural analysis of organised crime in Central America and its elements such as street bands of maras, Mexican narco-cartels operating throughout Guatemala’s territory and their links with Guatemalan commando corps, local criminal clans and groups. The article also expands on political impact of recent armed conflict followed by disabling and corrupting the country’s “organismo judicial” (system of justice). Description and analysis of the so-called “el caso Parlacen” (2007) features corruption and merger of crime and higher law-enforcement authorities. Political situation in the country may be described as “irregular warfare”, according to experts of U.S. Strategic Study Institute . The conclusion maintains that organised crime in Central America threatens geopolitical security of the region. It is remarkable that joint counter-crime efforts undertaken by Central America states and supported by United States regional policies, put bigger emphasis on military response to criminal activities which leads to further militarization of the region.

4). The fourth article called “Guatemala: Indigenous Myths, Cold War and Realities of the Third World” pretends to make an insight into historical, cultural and political background of violence in Guatemalan countryside, and namely in indigenous villages where sporadic outbreaks of vigilantism (mob justice) are observed. The Civil War in Guatemala was caused by U.S. interests in this region and struggle against “communists” exasperated by Cold War between two leading world powers. Cold War myths echoed in Guatemalan provinces by generating stories of child thefts resembling colonial legends of “robachicos” and “cortacabezas” which date back to Conquista times. Mass tourism also provides negative impact on Guatemalan indigenous peoples by breaking their privacy and intervening in their traditional way of life. Also, recent violence of the Civil War in Guatemala triggered the process of replacing the traditional indigenous justice (“el derecho maya”, the Mayan Law) based on reconciliation practices, with mob justice led by vengeance and mistrust of government system of justice. Cases of violent resolution of conflicts in indigenous villages resemble relatively recent methods and practices traditionally applied by Civil Patrols in their ethnic cleansing operations . The role of Mayan activists in regaining “Mayan law” is especially underlined.

Each article is followed by bibliography, literature and links. The Author gives acknowledgements to all researchers and academicians who kindly gave their consent to quotations. Translation of this Essay into English is pending.