HomeNewsBriefGuatemalan President Seeks ‘Alternative’ Approach to Gangs
BRIEF

Guatemalan President Seeks 'Alternative' Approach to Gangs

BARRIO 18 / 24 JAN 2013 BY HANNAH STONE AND MIRIAM WELLS EN

Guatemalan President Otto Perez has said he would not rule out alternative strategies for dealing with "mara" gangs in his country, including dialogue between rival groups, following the success of a gang truce in neighboring El Salvador.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he is promoting a reform of drug policy, Perez said his administration was "looking for another way to treat [the gangs]," El Diario de Hoy reported.

Perez highlighted the truce between El Salvador's principal gangs, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18, which entered its second phase this week with the launch of the first of 18 planned "peace zones," where gang members have agreed to stop all criminal activities. Since the truce was brokered last year, the homicide rate has dropped by more than half.

However, Perez noted that the situation in his country was different to that in El Salvador, as Guatemala's maras were not fighting amongst themselves, but were competing in various types of crime.

Later that day, Perez clarified that his government was "not disposed to hold dialogues with the maras," as Prensa Libre reported.

InSight Crime Analysis

Perez's comments are an indication of the attention that El Salvador's gang truce is getting from governments across the region.

Murders in El Salvador have been cut dramatically, and if gang members are to be believed, residents in specially designated "peace zones" around the country will soon see a reduction in other crimes like kidnapping, and extortion.

Guatemala's interior minister said that the Salvadoran truce was "worth studying," after attending a conference in El Salvador in May last year. Leaders of Guatemala's Barrio 18 have stated that they would be interested in negotiations with the government.

However, as Perez notes, Guatemala would not be able to simply replicate El Salvador's sharp cut in murders, as the dynamics of crime are very different in the two countries. The presence of other powerful criminal groups such as the Zetas in Guatemala means street gangs are not as important a driver of murders as they are in El Salvador.

In addition to this, even though El Salvador's gang truce has yielded impressive results, bargaining with criminal groups for a cut in homicides could set a dangerous precedent, encouraging gangs to threaten further violence if their demands are not met. There are also concerns that the El Salvadoran maras may have used the ceasefire to reorganize and build up a political influence.

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

BARRIO 18 / 16 JUN 2020

Police in Guatemala say the economic pressures stemming from the coronavirus lockdown are exacerbating internal divisions within the Barrio 18…

EL SALVADOR / 26 MAY 2017

Authorities in El Salvador arrested a fugitive crime boss who had escaped from a Guatemala prison two weeks earlier, with…

BARRIO 18 / 17 AUG 2015

El Salvador's Attorney General recently said the country is looking to extradite alleged gang members to the United States on…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.