HomeNewsBriefHow Guatemala's Increase in Youth Assassins Relates to Migration
BRIEF

How Guatemala's Increase in Youth Assassins Relates to Migration

BARRIO 18 / 25 AUG 2014 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

Homicide cases involving minors in Guatemala have risen significantly in 2014, another indication of the high level of violence in the Northern Triangle region that is fueling the migration of unaccompanied children to the United States in record numbers.

According to the Judicial Organism of Guatemala, 36 minors were arrested for homicide during the first three months of 2014, representing a 620 percent increase over the same period last year when only 5 minors were arrested for the same crime. In the last 30 days alone, at least 10 minors have been arrested for murder, reported EFE.

The overall number of criminal cases against minors has risen as well, with 588 minors facing criminal charges between January and March 2014, a 26 percent increase from the same period last year.

According to the Secretary for Social Wellbeing (SBC), homicide ranks as the second most common crime among youth, with 15 percent of incarcerated minors serving time for murder, compared to 18.3 percent for extortion and 14 percent for rape. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The six-fold increase in youth assassins in Guatemala comes amidst an historic migration of unaccompanied youths from the Northern Triangle region -- El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras -- to the United States. Some research has indicated this exodus is largely due to child migrants fleeing gang violence in their home countries. Many children are faced with the difficult choice of migrating north to the United States or staying home and risking being recruited into local gangs.

This data seems to back up that claim. The most recent figures illustrate the extent to which criminal groups seem to be targeting more and ever younger recruits, and employing them in increasingly dangerous jobs. Throughout the region, criminal groups recruit children and adolescents, who are often seen as a source of cheap and expendable manpower. But going from inductee to trusted assassin can take time, which means these recruits are getting younger and that there are probably more of them (InSight Crime also has anecdotal evidence of this). 

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profiles

Guatemala is not alone in facing down this issue. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas offer children food and education in exchange for joining the group, while in Mexico children are often used as hitmen by drug cartels. In Honduras, the powerful street gangs MS13 and Barrio 18 have reportedly recruited children as young as six.

One reason commonly cited for the high level of youth involvement in criminal groups is the relatively lax punishment facing minors who perpetrate crimes. In Guatemala, the maximum prison sentence a child can currently serve for homicide is six years, whereas an adult can spend up to 25 years behind bars for the same crime. 

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 / 10 JUN 2014

Authorities in Guatemala say the underworld has fragmented in the wake of the arrests and extraditions of the country's top…

EXTORTION / 31 AUG 2012

Guatemala City's replacement of its old buses with a more secure system where drivers do not handle cash could help…

ELITES AND CRIME / 25 APR 2019

Controversy is swirling in Guatemala after evidence emerged showing that President Jimmy Morales used a helicopter owned by a presidential…

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…