Guatemalan Army Bolsters Public Safety
By Amy de Girón/Diálogo August 25, 2016Cuando hablan de Cuerpo Especial de Reserva, se refieren a la RESERVA de la Fuerza Armada de Guatemala? Excelente dispositivo, mano dura contra el crimen organizado es lo que hemos necesitado desde hace muchos aÃ±os, siempre dentro del imperio de la Ley y disponer de titulares en leyes para defender al efectivo siempre que no se haga uso desmedido de la fuerza ademas de defenderlo de organizaciones de Derechos Humanos que si magnifican las operaciones militares degradÃ¡ndolas reciben dinero de la izquierda. Me parece muy ingenioso y de grandes resultados la creaciÃ³n de escuadrones en beneficio de la seguridad ciudadana. Enhonrabuena. Crates of tomatoes, bunches of onions, carrots, and a few aromatic herbs are set up to attract buyers. A woman arranges each of the vegetables in an attractive manner to grab her customers' attention. María Juárez has been selling at the Villa Nueva Market south of Guatemala City for 15 years, and she recognizes that, although it's not easy work, today it's made easier thanks to the Guatemalan Army personnel patrols. Five years ago, part of the profits generated by her business went to the hands of gang members, who demanded a weekly payment in exchange for allowing her to live and do business free from their death threats. "I do honest work, and since last year, I've seen how the soldiers patrol the market. That makes me feel safe and also calm. They are not going to come extort me at my business [anymore], and the clients are no longer scared to come out and buy," she affirms. Juárez is one of the many people benefitting from the Special Reserve Corps for Citizen Security (CERSC), which forms part of the support the Guatemalan Army offers civilian security forces. "The mission of these squadrons is to support the civilian security forces in their efforts to stop and combat common and organized crime and re-establishing or maintaining citizen safety when circumstances in the country require it," says Lieutenant Colonel Karen Pérez, Guatemalan Army spokesperson. In order to support the country's security needs, nine CERSC squadrons were created under Governmental Accord 31-2015. "Decree 40-2000 was ratified with this government accord, establishing that the Guatemalan Army must act in collaboration with the civilian security forces to protect individuals and to ensure the state provides the appropriate security," Lt. Col. Pérez added. How do the squadrons work? The CERSC is composed of 4,500 Army troops assigned to citizen-security tasks in Guatemala City and its municipalities, as well as in the departments of San Marcos, Quetzaltenango Huehuetenango, Quiché, Zacapa, Chiquimula, Izabal, Escuintla and Suchitepéquez. "With the goal of protecting the people, we are carrying out comprehensive cooperation operations like foot patrols, motorcycle and van patrols, and checkpoints in direct support of the civilian security forces," explained Artillery Colonel Nicolás Vergara Maldonado, commander of the Fifth Citizen Security Squadron. He added that they also are collaborating with the “Escuelas Seguras” (Secure Schools) plan, which places squadron personnel outside educational institutions when students come in and out. "Our mission is to counteract common criminal activity so that the honest, hardworking people can be safe, so they can move with confidence around areas where they live," emphasizes Col. Vergara. The results According to Col. Vergara, who has over a year of experience in one of the areas with the highest rates of gangs and crime, one of the achievements is having taken back several recreational areas. These areas were used to commit crimes, and the criminals didn't let young people practice sports. Also, the town residents say they feel safe with the presence of the squadrons in the area. "In one of the neighborhoods of zone 18, the residents were extorted by gang members to pay when they went in and out of their houses. They set up a gate and control booth to manage the payments. Now we can say that we've recovered this area, and the people walk freely," said Military Police Colonel Javier Cristóbal Can Saquic, an officer of the Fifth Squadron. The Ministry of the Interior recently presented a report in which it compared the cumulative incidence of crime during the first six months of 2015 and 2016 — this year the figures decreased to 275 cases. Location of the nine squadrons First Squadron: Headed by the “Mariscal Zavala” First Military Brigade, covering zones 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, and 9A of the department of Guatemala.Second Squadron: Headed by the Honor Guard of the First Brigade of the Military Police, it covers the municipalities of Villa Nueva, Amatitlán, San Miguel Petapa, Villa Canales, and zones 7, 11, 12, and 21.Third Squadron: Headed by the Second Military Brigade of the Military Police, it covers Mixco, San Juan Sacatepéquez, San Pedro Sacatepéquez, San Raymundo, Chuarrancho, and zone 19.Fourth Squadron: Headed by the Mountain Operations Brigade based in San Marcos, it covers San Marcos and Quetzaltenango.Fifth Squadron: Headed by the “Mariscal Zavala” First Brigade, it covers the municipalities of San Pedro Ayampuc, Chinautla, San José del Golfo, Palencia, and zones 6, 16, 17, 18, 24, and 25 in the capital city.Sixth Squadron: Headed by the First Brigade's Honor Guard, it covers Santa Catarina Pinula, San José Pinula, Fraijanes and zones 5, 10, 13, 14, and 15 in the capital city.Seventh Squadron: Headed by the Fifth Infantry Brigade in Huehuetenango, it covers Huehuetenango and Quiché.Eighth Squadron: Headed by the Second Infantry Brigade in Zacapa, it covers Zacapa, Chiquimula, and Izabal.Ninth Squadron: Headed by the “Mariscal Zavala” First Infantry Brigade, it covers Escuintla and Suchitepéquez.