HomeNewsBrief100s of Guatemalan Community Police Groups Operate Illegally: Study
BRIEF

100s of Guatemalan Community Police Groups Operate Illegally: Study

GUATEMALA / 20 JUN 2013 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

Over 300 community policing units in Guatemala operate illegally and some are engaged in the drug trade, according to a new study, highlighting both the dangers of informal security operations and the institutional weakness and lack of resources that plague the Guatemalan security forces.

Local security boards were first created to help fight crime in Guatemala in 1999, three years after the peace accords that ended the country's civil war. According to a 2012 report from the Conflict Transformation Institute for Peace Development at Rafael Landivar University, there are now over 1,000 of these groups, though only 717 are legally registered, reported Prensa Libre.

According to Luis Mario Martinez Turcios, who oversaw the study, the authorities have lost control of many of these groups. Martinez said that a lack of state presence in some areas of the country has allowed the groups to gain autonomy, and to engage in kidnappings, impose curfews, carry out illegal arrests, and enforce their own judicial processes and punishments.

Among others, he cited the cases of Tajumulco and Ixchiguan in the San Marcos province near the Mexico border -- where the largest number of registered units exist. In the region, which is a drug trafficking hotspot, illegal community policing units are tied to drug trafficking, hide arms in cemeteries and are frequently involved in confrontations, he said. 

Vice Minister of Community Support Arkel Benitez denied the groups have become uncontrollable.

InSight Crime Analysis

The role of Guatemala's local security boards was not clearly defined at the time of creation, but international aid groups insisted that they be used as part of a new security model to fight crime and violence, according to Plaza Publica. Later some municipalities, including Guatemala City, incorporated these boards into their institutional structure, but allowed them to function autonomously.

A lack of state resources, and police corruption are both major problems affecting Guatemalan security. In 2012, national police withdrew from 32 municipalities in Guatemala, many of them important to the drug trade, and nearly 200 police were removed from their posts for criminal ties. Though community police may provide security in otherwise unpoliced areas, their existence also poses dangers as they may take justice into their own hands or criminalize, as has happened in the past in Mexico and Colombia.

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.

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

GUATEMALA / 11 NOV 2011

In an effort to increase its capacity to crack down on Latin American drug syndicates, the U.S. government has set…

EL SALVADOR / 11 MAY 2021

A new report suggests women are increasingly playing an active role in the extortion activities of Central American gangs --…

CONTRABAND / 7 OCT 2014

Every day, enormous handmade rafts cross the Suchiate river, located in the municipality of Ayutla in Guatemala's San Marcos province,…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

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…