This is a source for analysis, interviews, and commentary on security in Latin America. Herein you will find rumors, the results of off the record interviews, and information you'll not find in international or United States news media.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

100 Days of Security?

Since Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom entered office earlier this month, there have been at least 170 murders. That’s around 13 a day. Compared to all of 2007, where nearly 16 people were killed a day for a total of 5,781 murders, we could say Colom is off to a good start.

The day after he was inaugurated, Colom initiated a security plan to run for the first 100 days, called the “Plan de Seguridad de los Cien Dias,” or the 100 Day Security Plan. It appears to be a quick patch to test the water and give him some time to fine tune a more robust plan while benefiting from observing how the country reacts in the short-term. By all accounts, the plan has increased violence, a predictable result.

The headline in Guatemalan papers on 28 January was that 1,314 alleged criminals have been apprehended since Colom came into office, an impressive number. But it wasn’t long before Colom had to reply to a sharp criticism about his judicial system. Apparently one of those captured, a notorious street gang member known as Miguel Garcia or “The Dwarf”, was let go within hours of his arrest. He was wanted in connection with the massacre of 19 minors on the 19th of January.

As mentioned in previous commentaries, Colom is in a tight spot. During the campaign leading up to his election, the man was hounded by former associated who threatened to kill him if he didn’t follow through on promises made years ago when he sold his political soul to his country’s organized crime bosses. As president, Colom must still attend to the shadow elements of his political party, but the question remains whether or not he will let these elements dictate policy on a national level or simply be content with Colom looking the other way.

At the same time, he must appear tough on crime. The 100 days plan is evidence of his desire to show the constituency that his administration will be tough. In Guatemala, however, the administration is dealing with a two-front battle. On one side he has organized crime that moves anything that earns money, from drugs and humans to organs and guns. But this group is not the most immediate threat to security. It’s the street gangs with swelling numbers not necessarily from local recruitment but from arriving deportees.

Wave after wave of deported criminal arrives in Guatemala where, despite the best efforts of the US Department of Homeland Security, Interpol, and the Guatemalan National Police, all the criminals who arrive in Guatemala can’t simply be detained, as we can see from the recent release of “The Dwarf”. As I’ve said before, Guatemala will be a very interesting place to watch over the next 70 days and on into the future. Right now, it’s hard to see how Colom can pull Guatemala out of this downward spiral without significant help from the international community – help that heretofore has not been exactly forthcoming…

No comments:

Powered by Southern Pulse |