HomeNewsBriefMotorcycle Killings: Criminal Modus Operandi in LatAm
BRIEF

Motorcycle Killings: Criminal Modus Operandi in LatAm

ECUADOR / 9 AUG 2015 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

Over 1,500 Guatemalans have reportedly been killed by motorcycle assassins since 2012, highlighting the spread across Latin America of a murder tactic popularized during the era of Colombia’s Pablo Escobar and his Medellin Cartel.

According to the non-governmental organization Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (GAM), 1,537 Guatemalans have been killed in the past three and a half year by motorcycle-born assassins, reported elPeriodico. An additional 699 individuals have reportedly suffered injuries as a result of these attacks.

According to GAM, the number of motorcycle killings in Guatemala is on the rise. The number of registered deaths increased by over 50 percent between 2012 and 2014, from 335 to 527, respectively.

To combat this crime, former President Alvaro Colom prohibited a second passenger from riding on the back of a motorcycle in 2009. However, current President Otto Perez Molina lifted this ban in 2013.

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profile

Meanwhile, a recent study conducted by Ecuador’s Judicial Police found that suspects on motorcycles in the city of Guayaquil have carried out an average of nine crimes per day this year. (See El Universo’s graph below) The 1,876 crimes committed by individuals riding motorcycles represent almost 15 percent of the total number of criminal acts reported to authorities during the first seven months of 2015.

15-08-07-Ecuador-Moto-Crimes

InSight Crime Analysis

The use of motorcycles as a vehicle for assassination dates back to the 1980s, when Pablo Escobar ran the powerful Medellin Cartel in Colombia. On orders from Escobar, motorcycle assassins killed Colombian Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, setting off a war between the cartel and the state over the issue of extradition. The cartel emerged victorious in this war, and Escobar’s use of motorcycle assassins catapulted him to international notoriety. 

Since that time, the use of motorcycle assassins has spread throughout Latin America. The tactic has become common in countries with a strong gang presence such as Honduras and Guatemala, but has also been seen in more peaceful nations like Uruguay.

Despite the prevalence of motorcycle assassins, many urban dwellers in Latin America oppose a two-passenger ban because they rely on motorcycles for transportation. Perez Molina’s reversal of the two-passenger prohibition in 2013 attests to the unpopularity of this law, which often stalls efforts to cut down on motorcycle crimes. Medellin has restricted men from riding on the back of motorcycles for years, but a Colombian court recently overturned the ban. 

Compartir icon icon icon

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.

Related Content

CARSI / 7 NOV 2011

Guatemala and Nicaragua elected two former military commanders on November 6, whose vastly different political backgrounds belie their similarities on…

GUATEMALA / 28 MAR 2017

Central American undocumented migrants are shifting to maritime transportation, according to a recent report, likely as a result of Mexico's…

BARRIO 18 / 23 JUN 2014

Rival politicians, and some press accounts, blame what they call the Obama administration’s lenient policy towards immigrant…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…