Crime data released by police in Guatemala for 2011 indicates that the homicide rates in two provinces with significant drug cartel presence have fallen significantly following security crackdowns there.
According to Plaza Publica's analysis of data released by the National Civil Police (PNC), the departments of Alta Verapaz and Peten, where the government declared “states of siege” to root out drug traffickers in 2010 and 2011 respectively, both saw a decrease in homicide rates of more than 20 percent in 2011.
The data suggests that murder rates fell in 2011 in all but eight of the country’s 22 departments. This fits with recent announcements by government officials, who claim that the national homicide rate fell to 38.61 per 100,000 in 2011, down from 41.5 in 2010.
Guatemala Department, which contains the capital city, is no longer the most dangerous province in the country. In 2011 it was replaced by the eastern department of Zacapa, which, along with Esquintla and Santa Rosa departments in the south, are both the most dangerous departments and those which saw the biggest increases in homicide rates last year.
InSight Crime Analysis
The drop in homicides in Alta Verapaz and Peten is an encouraging sign for Guatemala. As InSight Crime has reported, police and military operations did not result in any significant arrests, and there has been no indication that drug trafficking activity fell significantly in either department. However, the states of siege could have had at least a deterrent effect, convincing traffickers to be more discreet about their activities, and avoid the kind of police and media attention that the Zetas' massacre of 27 farmhands brought in May 2011.
Despite the apparent drop in violence, Guatemala remains a violent country and is still a key transit nation for cocaine destined for the US market. Recently, there have also been indications that the country is becoming a drug producing nation as well, potentially even rivaling Mexico in meth production.