High Murder Rate in Guatemala Linked to Drug Trafficking

By Dialogo
January 25, 2012

Violence shot up in Guatemala during the recently concluded administration of Álvaro Colom, with more than 24,000 homicides during his four-year term, the highest figure in the last three administrations, according to a report released by a humanitarian organization on January 23.

“Upon comparing the three previous administrations, it can be seen that the one with the highest number of fatalities” is Colom’s, the document by the Mutual Support Group indicates.

According to that independent humanitarian organization, there were around 14,000 homicides during former president Alfonso Portillo’s four-year term (2000-2004), 21,511 during Óscar Berger’s administration (2004-2008), and 24,021 during Colom’s (2008-2012).

Guatemala is suffering an escalation of violence chiefly due to the penetration of drug cartels such as the Mexican Los Zetas, as well as the proliferation of the feared youth gangs (“maras”) that control marginal neighborhoods in the country.

In 2011, “massacres (…) were among the most prominent crimes, with a total of 122 cases, in which 466 people died and 152 were injured, reported over the course of the year,” the report specified.

On January 21 alone, eight people died in an armed attack in a nightclub in a town south of the Guatemalan capital. Five M-16 rifles were found at the scene of the slaughter, according to the National Civil Police, which is investigating the motives.

Otto Pérez, who took office as president of Guatemala only ten days ago, stated that the attack might have taken place due to clashes between cartels, since drugs were being distributed at the club, he said.