Guatemala City.- Humanitarian organization, Group of Mutual Support, GAM, Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo de Guatemala, has released the latest data on lynching's and mob violence in Guatemala. According to GAM in 2008 there where 8 deaths caused by mob violence and 102 injured. In 2009, to this date, there are 44 deaths and 151 injured. The Supreme Court of Guatemala states the figures as 41 deaths and 211 injured. The difference of the figures could be due to a different cut of dates of the statistics, or different methodologies applied to count the incidents.
The increase of deaths caused by lynching and mob violence from 2008 to 2009 is dramatic. It is as dramatic as the number of murders reported during the last year: 5,400 homicides.
Mario Polanco from GAM stated in an interview with the Guatemala Times that the population does not trust the police and the justice system any more "People are desperate. A perpetrator of a crime is caught, taken by the Police, and the criminals can be released the next day because of lack of action of the Public Ministries investigators. The criminals return to their village or their barrio and turn on the people who gave information that lead to their captures. The law abiding citizens who collaborate with the justice system to apprehend criminals become victims of these criminals when they are released. In desperation people start to take justice into their own hands. They see that the police and the judicial system can not protect them. The government is very weak; it does not provide security for the population. The government has very little credibility in matters of security with the people." Mario Polanco also stated that Mob violence can lead to the killing of innocent people and then be the cause of revenge killings.
In an interview with The Guatemala Times, Nery Rodenas from the Office of Human Rights of the Archbishop of Guatemala, ODHAG, stated "The lynching's have their origins in the times of the armed conflict in Guatemala. During the civil war, the military used the system of lynching of insurgents or suspects of being insurgents in the home town squares of the insurgents. They forced the people of the villages to participate in the killing and beating of the members of their own community, including family members of the insurgent or suspected insurgent and the priests.
Today's lynchings are different; there are different actors and different causes for the lynchings. But the origin of this practice is Guatemala's internal conflict. The Government has not been able to prevent this negative social behavior that has caused so much fear and violence in the people of Guatemala."
Other analysts, Iduvina Hernandez, Director of Seguridad en Democracia (Security in Democracy), Carmen Rosa de Leon Escribano, Director of IEPADES and Carmen Aída Ibarra, of the Pro -Justice Movement of Guatemala, have stated that indeed, the weakness of the Guatemalan government to protect the Guatemalan citizens during the last year, when violence has spiraled out of control, has increased the levels of anger and frustration dramatically.
The feeling of being unprotected by government institutions in charge of their protection and to provide justice, like the police, the Public Ministry and the rest of the justice system, causes the people to be more inclined to take matters into their own hands.
In an interview with the Guatemala Times, Iduvina Hernandez, Director of Seguridad en Democracia (Security in Democracy) explains: "not all the lynching's are the same, some have been organized and facilitated by drug gangs to get rid of their competitors, others could be linked to Para Military groups or political actors that benefit from destroying the social fabric of communities that are getting organized. Some have been linked to ex-Pak members (Para Military Defense Groups organized by the military during the internal conflict), and ex-Pak members have also been linked to the drug gangs."
There is no profile of the facilitators of the lynchings, these incidents are not as spontaneous as they appear to be. A certain degree of facilitation and organization is required.
Also in Guatemalan there is no specific law to legally prosecute a group of people that participates in a violent action of this nature. This law has to be created to be able to prosecute the people responsible for these violent acts.
Picture: Ignacio de Wit