April 27, 2010: Treasury sanctions Guatemalan drug family. The Treasury Department on Tuesday imposed sanctions against Guatemala's Lorenzana family, accusing them of running one of the country's biggest drug trafficking networks, with ties to Mexico's Sinaloa cartel. [Washington Post] [Prensa Libre] [Siglo XXI]
March 25, 2010:UN publishes 2009 human rights report. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights made 16 recommendations to the Guatemalan government, including the prioritization of the reduction of insecurity, combating poverty, and the strengthening of the rule of law. Specifically, it mentioned the importance of progressive and integral tax reform and transparency for all public spending. The report noted some positive developments such as free education services, and the passage of a number of laws including the Law against Sexual Violence, Exploitation and Trafficking, and the Constitutional Court's recognition of forced disappearance as a permanent crime. However, the UN report highlighted the increasing number of homicides, which, according to police reports, rose to 6,498 in 2009, a 4% increase from 2008. 83% of the crimes were committed with a firearm. [Siglo XXI]
[Read UN report in English / Spanish]
February 26, 2010: US Defense Department warns of the transfer of bases of narco-trafficking networks to Central America. The US Department of Defense sees the transfer of bases to Central America as a result of political pressure in Colombia, Mexico and the Carribbean. The US plans to send some 100 million dollars to Central America through the Merida Initiative to address this "nightmare." [Prensa Libre]
February 25, 2010: Hillary Clinton’s Visit to Guatemala Will Center around Drug Trafficking. United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, will visit Guatemala on March 5 where she will address issues related to drug trafficking and the strengthening of Guatemala’s military, officials said yesterday. “The visit is to reinforce conversations we had last week,” during the visit to Washington, President Colom stated at an improvised press conference. This will be part of Secretary Clinton’s first tour of Latin America since she was appointed in 2009. [Latribuna]
February 19, 2010: President Colom asks the United States to Enlarge the Mérida Initiative. Colom persues help with agricultural programs dedicated to helping families currently cultivating poppy and marijuana. Many bilateral issues were discussed in the meeting between President Colom and Secretary Clinton. With the intent of discuss opportunities for development, through agricultural programs, for families that cultivate poppies and marijuana, President Colom asked Secretary of State Clinton for the enlargement of the Mérida Initiative. Ronaldo Robles, secretary of Presidential Social Communication, confirmed that the Secretary showed interest in the proposal and although she did not give an official answer, offered support for the rural development. The Mérida Initiative is $1.4 billion program designed to support, with materials, personnel and training, the countries of Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean in their fight against organized crime. Colom took the opportunity to invite Clinton to Guatemala, in order to see the social programs currently being implemented and to visit the archaeological site El Mirador.
To conclude his visit to the United States, Colom announced to new agencies that the United Nations will open an antidrug and crime office, known as UNODOC, to strengthen the fight against drug trafficking in the region. The office would being operations in June or July. According to the mandate, UNODOC the compliment the work of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), directed by Carlos Castresana.Colom returned to Guatemala on Thursday, after three days in the United States. [DEGUATE]
January 26, 2010: 2009 - The Most Violent Year for Human Rights Defenders. Unionists, community leaders, journalists and defenders of truth and justice were the principal victims of threats and assassinations in 2009 with 343 attacks on humanitarian activists. Claudia Samayoa, coordinator for the Protection Unit for Human Rights Defenders affirmed that 2009 was the most violent year for activists in a decade. Unionists were the most targeted group with 120 attacks, a 225% increase from 2008. Similarly, attacks against the defenders of truth and justice jumped from 42 cases to 96 cases while attacks against human rights defenders increased by 40%. [CERIGUA]
December 14, 2009: Human Rights Ombudsman's Office counts an average of 20 murders per day. According to statistics from the Human Rights Ombudsman, 5,482 people were violently murdered between January and October 2009. In the same period last year, 4,756 people died in the same manner, a 6% increase and an average of 20 deaths per day. The increase of the number of women’s deaths within this category was 10%. The departments with the most assassinations are Guatemala, Escuintla and Petén. A rebuttal from the PNC claims that the numbers have gone down overall. [elPeriodico]
December 6, 2009: More than 175 bus drivers have been killed so far this year, according to human rights group Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo. The violence is though to be related to street gang extortion and intimidation. [BBC]
November 10, 2009: Two extortion rings broken up. The Public Prosecutor’s Office and the National Civilian Police have broken up two gangs in the last two months, who had been extorting bus drivers, shops and citizens in Mixco and San Juan Sacatepéquez. The leaders of the two groups had been organizing the extortion of more than 12 transportation companies from jail, and now 29 gang members have been arrested. [Prensa Libre]
October 29, 2009: Four bus drivers dead in three days. Yesterday two bus drivers were killed in Guatemala City. This brings the total of bus drivers killed to four in three days. Fifty bus drivers on urban routes and forty one on rural routes have been killed in 2009, along with fourteen assistants on urban routes and fifteen on rural routes. Furthermore, nine others (inspectors, businessmen, passengers) have been killed during these acts in 2009. The murders have almost entirely been related to extortion costs that the bus drivers are suppossed to pay gangs.
October 21, 2009: UN report finds Central America most crime-ridden region on earth. Some 79,000 people have been murdered in the region over the past six years, but despite these heightened levels of violence, solving the problem of insecurity is possible within the framework of democracy, according to the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) Report on Human Development in Central America 2009-2010. [Los Angeles Times] [UN News Centre]
September 1, 2009: Number of Torture Cases Increases. The PDH has released a report on violence and homicides between January 1 and August 15 showing an increase in torture cases, particularly cases involving women. This year there had already been 106 women whose bodies show signs of torture, compared with 115 for all of 2008, and 125 in 2007. There has also been an increase in bus driver deaths, with 102 dead by mid-August this year. According to the report, Mixco is the most violent area for transportation. [Prensa Libre]
July 22, 2009: Stephen McFarland cites narco-trafficking as threat. Organized crime and narcotrafficking are considered by US Ambassador Stephen McFarland to be the most pressing threats in the region and they must be fought within the rule of law. The diplomat spoke yesterday at the opening of the Regional Conference on Human Rights, in which members of various countries' armed forced and groups in favor of individual rights participated, and said that in anti-narcotic operations, existing laws must prevail. "Today, the most pressing threat in the region is organized crime and narcotrafficking. Police forces should be the first and only to respond, and each country has its own system to operate in these circumstances," he said. He continued by saying, "From our side, we must reduce demand, and the flow of arms and money. The rest of the countries should seek to seize more drugs." [Prensa Libre]
June 9, 2009: Grotesque Deaths Recall War
June 1, 2009: 2009 becoming Guatemala's most violent year. The Office of Human Rights (DPH) and pro-justice groups believe that 2009 will be the most violent year in recent history for Guatemala. The Ministry of the Interior's statistics from January 1 to April 20 list the number of reported homicides as 297 more than they were for that same period in 2008 - 1,996 violent deaths compared to 1,699 violent deaths from January to April 2008. Last year ended with 6,292 crimes and 5,000 deaths. In addtion, there were 419 disappearances from January 1 to April 20 this year, compared to 388 disappearances for that time period in 2008. Sexual abuse towards women also increased during the first quarter of 2009 to 124 victims, up from 109 victims in the first quarter of 2008. [Prensa Libre]
Seven die during fight between narcotraffickers in Huehuetenango. Seven people were killed on Friday in Huehuetenango as the result of fighting between groups of narcotraffickers. The incidents were in the village of San Lorenzo. Four male bodies were thrown from a car and 15 km further up the road, the drivers of another car were forced out of the vehicle by strangers and were lynched. Police are investigating to see if the two cases are related. Friday's deaths continue the increase in narcotrafficking-related violence that has surged since 2008. [La Hora]
Businesses lose Q91 Million per year in robberies. Police reports state that there are three to five robberies or assaults on small businesses every 24 hours. These reports estimate daily losses due to robbery or assault at Q250,000 each day, or Q91 million every year. According to FEPYME, the Federation of Small and Medium Businesses, although this is a widespread trend, the shops most affected are in the capital, Villa Nueva, Mixco, Escuintla, Quetzaltenango and Cobán. [Prensa Libre]
Rev. Larry Rosebaugh, a human rights activist who had been working in Guatemala since 1993, was shot and killed on May 18, 2009 in an attempted carjacking.
September 9, 2009: Guatemala food-starved due to weather, economy. President Colom declared "a state of public calamity" late Tuesday to help mobilize funds and resources to confront a food shortage that will affect thousands of families. Colom hopes for resource donations on behalf of the international community. The World Food Program announced it will start distributing 20 tons of nutritional cookies to the most affected areas. Guatemalan authorities say thousands of families are dangerously short of food due to adverse weather, poor soil and the troubled global economy. Last week, a U.N. official attributed Guatemala's failure to defeat hunger to its unequal distribution of wealth. [Washington Post]
February 18: Mexican drug gangs continue to move south into Guatemala, causing increased violence and creating new challenges for the Guatemala government.