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Guatemala: Targeted Violence Against Bus Drivers

Photo by David Dennis and used under a Creative Commons license.

Lately in Guatemala, bus drivers and their staff have been targeted in systematic attacks by violent groups. This level of organization in the acts leaves several questions unanswered especially about who are behind the attacks and what can be done. In addition, a lot of people remain afraid. Tayuyo described the situation on his post 7,8, 9, 10 people murdered [es]:

Esta semana la situación de seguridad ha estado bien grueso, ya que los mareros han asesinado a un promedio de 3 a 4 pilotos de autobuses a diario. Con un pico de 6 muertes en un solo día. A esto, ya han habido muchos que han alzado la voz de preocupacion y con razón.

This week the security situation has been getting complicated because of the gangs that have murdered an average of 3 to 4 bus drivers every day. The highest total was six murders in a single day. And there have been several people raising their voice, and they have a reason to do so.

On the institutional blog Proceso Economico [es], Fernando Monterroso pointed out the importance of a prompt response to the chaos from local authorities:

Hubo un paso hacia delante, por pequeño que haya sido. Los alcaldes de los municipios del departamento de Guatemala se reunieron con el Ministro de Gobernación para plantearle la desesperación ante la situación de inseguridad. Hicieron ver la voz de sus electores ante las autoridades del caos que existe.

There has been some progress, even though it has been very little. The mayors of the towns in Guatemala met with officials from the Ministry of Interior to express their desperation because of this insecurity. They expressed the concerns of their electorate, raising their voice against the existent chaos.

The spreading of information regarding the terror and chaos in the media has played an important role. There are questions regarding the way the information is shown, updated, and cover in the headlines, which can either contribute to the stabilization of the situation or generate misinformation and panic. The media has been saying that these attacks might be caused by organized crime, the army or gangs. The blogger cheguille [es] thinks that gangs are the real culprit:

Ahora las empresas grandes de transporte ya tambien estan siendo tocadas por estos mareros que en lugar de dedicarse a estudiar o a trabajar se dedican a robar, no saben que todo lo que uno hace se paga y que por eso muchas veces aparecen muertos, la gente se cansa de estar manteniendo a estas personas y toman la justicia por sus mano!

Now big transport companies are being attacked by those gangs, who instead of being in school or working, they are involved in robbery. They don't know that one must pay for their mistakes and that's why sometimes they end up dead themselves, people are tired of feeding those kids, and they take justice into their own hands.

Gangs are a daily issue in Guatemala, not only in the city but also in small villages such as Quetzaltepeque. From the blog PASJUCA [es], led by a Catholic youth group, who denounced the actions in a touristic place:

El día de ayer en horas de la noche un círculo de “amigos, jóvenes o pandilleros” como se les pueda llamar tuvo la genial idea de ponerse a “jugar” con fuego dentro del Atrio de nuestro Templo Colonial, el cual hace poco fue declarado como parte de una importante Ruta Turística.

Last night, a circle of “friends, young people, or gangs” had the bright idea of playing with fire inside the atrium of our colonial temple, which was just declared an important piece of a touristic route.

You can read the concerns of blogger Perspectiva Militar [es] on his post describing the coverage of the media, in Ethical dilemma and misinformation:

Dice la nota de redacción, tener un informe de inteligencia y seguridad, donde indica que pudieron haber sido – los ataques – coordinados por personas allegadas a un grupo de oficiales del Ejército de Guatemala recientemente asignados a otros puestos. Los analistas, reitero, deben considerar todas las posibilidades, pero no pueden concluir sin las debidas pruebas y mucho menos hacerlas públicas, mancillando la honra no solo de las personas aludidas sino la de una institución como lo es el Ejército de Guatemala…. Dilema ético para un medio de comunicación: Publicar como labor social de mantener informados a los ciudadanos…. o bien: Publicar para vender.

According to a press note, there are intelligence security reports, where it is written that the attacks might be linked to people closely connected to a group of high ranking officers of Guatemalan army, recently assigned to other functions. The analysts have to consider all the possibilities but they cannot come to conclusions without proof, and especially they cannot make it available to the public, harming not only the honor of those accused but also the honor of an institution like the Army. He adds: There is an ethical dilemma for the press, to publish as a social duty or…. just publish things to sell newspapers.

Congress argues that a new law is required to solve the situation, but not so many people agree according to LIBERTAS [es] on his post Security crises v The judicial System

La solución de fondo recae en asumir un compromiso serio y de largo plazo para fortalecer verdaderamente las instituciones de justicia: Organismo Judicial, Ministerio Público, Policía Nacional Civil, Sistema Penitenciario, Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Forenses, etc. Dicha obligación corresponde principalmente al Congreso de la República, empezando por los presupuestos que decidan conferirles a estas instituciones.

The inner solution is to adopt a serious long-term commitment to truly strenghten the Judicial System: The Judiciary, the Office of the General Prosecutor, Civil National Police, the Bureau of Forensic Investigations, etc. To do so, relies on the Congress that approves their budgets.

The are additional remarks regarding the rumors by Blog Principios [es]:

Muchos son los rumores que circulan acerca de quiénes podrían estar detrás de estos hechos y cuáles son los motivos que los impulsan. Que si son miembros de los distintos grupos del partido oficial peleando por cuotas de poder en el gobierno. Que si son un grupo de policías destituidos, animados por el deseo de venganza. Que si son oficiales del ejercito amenazados con ser dados de baja o, en el mejor de los casos, declarados en “disponibilidad”. Que si son narcotraficantes y contrabandistas marcando su territorio. O mareros molestos ante una posible merma de sus ingresos, si acaso se les dificultara el cobro de impuestos.

There are a lot of rumors circulating about who might be behind the murders and their motives. Some say that they may be some members of the official party fighting for power quota in the government, others say that it might be the Army Officers facing the possibility of being out of a job, or even worst, determined to be “available” or drug dealers and traffickers, because of their territory or angry gangs facing a possible reduction of their income, if the authorities make it more difficult to collect their “taxes.”

The reality reflected in blogs is that illicit networks are taking power in marginalized areas and that the history of violence will not be removed easily from the present. Instead of fighting the results and trying to mitigate the damages, it is the duty of all Guatemalans to look for solutions, care about youth, and be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

1 comment

  • Uff, cuantas cosas pasan en el mundo y uno ni se entera.

    Ojala todo se solucione pronto :(

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