Guatemala: Why are children fleeing?

Since 1980 Guatemala has been the most populous country in Central America with 15.5 million people. This country went through a 36-year civil war that ended in 1996.

Guatemala has one of the highest violent crime and homicide rates in Central America. Some of these crimes are assault, theft, carjacking, rape, kidnapping, armed robbery and murder. In 2013 there was an average of 101 murders per week and there are four reasons for this: an increase in narco-trafficking, gang-related violence, armed population (more than 60 percent) and a negligent judicial system.

Twenty-five percent of the reported 65,005 children who have crossed into the United States are from Guatemala.

There are several robbery trends going on in Guatemala, one of them is the use of motorcycles for armed robbery. The government issued a law that allows only the operator of the motorcycle with the use of an orange vest with a sticker that has the license plates on it. Motorcycles are only allowed to drive in the right side of the street now but as always enforcement has lagged. Cellphone robbery is another big thing, and estimates of 142, 745 were stolen in 2012, which makes a phone every 4 minutes.

Traffickers and kidnapping gangs are often connected. Members are well armed and use force to kidnap, rob, kidnap and kill. Many of the kidnapping gangs are doing what is called “express” kidnapping in which they kidnap a person, ask for a small amount of money that could be easily gathered and then release the person. Sadly, in many kidnapping cases, the gangs killed the victim whether the ransom was paid or not.

According to the United States Department of State, “The Policia Nacional Civil (PNC) lacks sufficient personnel and training to accomplish their mission. In addition, the PCN suffers from a lack of logistical supplies (vehicles, fuel, ammunition, etc.) with little improvement from year-to-year. However, what the PNC lacks most is manpower.”

Sources: United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the World Factbook and Congressional Research Services.

Click to view the Congressional Research Services: Guatemala- Political, Security, and Socio-Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations

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