HomeNewsBriefGuatemala Debates Hardline Cell Phone Theft Law
BRIEF

Guatemala Debates Hardline Cell Phone Theft Law

GUATEMALA / 19 JUL 2012 BY ELYSSA PACHICO EN

Guatemalan Congress is currently considering a law that would make the activation of a stolen cell phone punishable by up to eight years in prison and up to 100,000 quetzales (about $12,800) in fines.

The law was formally presented to Congress on June 27. It includes the creation of a national data base that would include every registered cell phone number in the country, a proposal that has drawn criticism over whether such a registry could facilitate the violation of civil liberties.

The proposed law also imposes more severe penalties on cell phone use in prisons, making it punishable by between two to four years in prison.

Vendors who sell stolen cell phones would also face between six to eight years in prison.

InSight Crime Analysis

This “mano dura” (iron fist) cell phone law could possibly disencentivize the illegal cell phone trade by imposing such harsh punishments. But the risk is that the policy would fill up Guatemala’s overburdened prisons with citizens prosecuted for the mere crime of perhaps unknowingly activating a stolen phone. Because Guatemalan cell phones revolve around the use of prepaid calling cards, it is easy for cell phones to change hands, and this could increase the risk of someone unintentionally activating a phone which is in fact stolen. Nor is it clear whether vendors could be prosecuted simply for selling a stolen phone, or whether prosecutors would have to prove that they were knowingly selling stolen goods.

The tougher penalties on cell phone use is prisons is one indication of how important prisons have become as a center for extortion schemes, many of which are carried out via cell phones. The new law appears intended to address this.

That the new law is seeking such tough punishments for cell phone theft is partly a sign of how ubiquitous the crime has become in Guatemala. Guatemala’s Public Ministry reportedly registers up to 3,000 cell phone thefts per month, equivalent to 100 per day and four per hour, according to ElPeriodico.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Tags

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

DRUG POLICY / 9 MAY 2014

Guatemala is examining the possibility of taxing legalized drug crop cultivation, de-penalizing low level drug crimes and offering amnesty to…

COLOMBIA / 23 MAR 2016

Organized crime and the violence associated with it is the preeminent problem in Latin America and the Caribbean today. The…

CRIMINAL MIGRATION / 24 JAN 2014

A key witness in the trial for a Zetas massacre in Guatemala has revealed how the Mexican cartel's original high…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…

THE ORGANIZATION

Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…