HomeNewsBriefProperty Theft on the Rise in Guatemala
BRIEF

Property Theft on the Rise in Guatemala

GUATEMALA / 20 NOV 2013 BY NATALIE SOUTHWICK EN

Gangs using violence and fraud are driving an exponential increase in the theft of properties in Guatemala, demonstrating a level of sophistication that goes far beyond street gangs seizing homes and businesses with threats and intimidation.

Guatemala has recorded 1,400 cases of property theft so far in 2013, 400 more than last year's total, reported Siglo 21.

Criminals use various strategies to illegally take possession of properties, including falsified signatures, invalid contracts, unauthorized notarizations and fake identity cards, reported Emisoras Unidas.

According to the head of the country's General Property Registry, Anabella de Leon, they also use violence, with four organized crime groups believed to be behind 114 murders linked to property theft.  According to De Leon, the most common victims are citizens living in other countries, the elderly, and people who own property in dangerous areas.

So far this year, nine individuals have been arrested with false paperwork while inside illegally obtained properties.

Two years ago, Guatemala's government established the General Property Registry which provides owners with greater safeguards, including a biometric immobilization service, to prevent property theft. However, according to De Leon, only 5,000 of the country's registered five million properties have taken up the service, leaving the vast majority less protected.

InSight Crime Analysis

Appropriating property is a common strategy for criminals across the region, especially among street gangs, which force people from their homes then use the buildings for everything from lookout points to stash houses. In Colombia, it has even become common for gangs to act as what Colombian conflict analyst Fernando Quijano calls a "criminal estate agency" -- selling or renting the properties, often to friends, family and allies.

See Also: Guatemala News and Profiles

However, the Guatemala property theft described by De Leon takes this a step further by making these thefts appear legal through fraud and falsification of ownership documents. 

While De Leon did not mention the issue, given the levels of corruption in state institutions, which help criminals with everything from obtaining false passports to legalizing stolen cars, it seems likely that these criminals would also seek out corrupt contacts to help them in this endeavor. 

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

COCAINE / 12 MAR 2021

The extradition of a mayor threatens to topple his family’s decades-long political control of a coastal Pacific town -- a…

ARGENTINA / 12 SEP 2022

Synthetic drugs like methamphetamine, fentanyl, and ecstasy are reshaping Latin America's drug trade.

GUATEMALA / 10 AUG 2022

Authorities in Guatemala have dismantled several human trafficking networks in a series of coordinated operations, shedding light on…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…