Combatting Violence in Guatemala
March is a special month for the fight against violence in Guatemala. On the 13th and 31st, the National Day Against Violence towards Minors and the Day of National Dignity for those who have suffered violence, are commemorated respectively. At Trama, we want to give voice to these facts and movements that are well known, but have not found an end.
Violence is, along with poverty and lack of education, a main problem of this nation that is slowly beginning to change for the better. While crime levels have decreased slightly overall in most of the country, murder rates continue to rise in the capital, which holds the shameful title of the most dangerous city in the world, with 75 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.
Guatemala is in the top 3 countries for homicides and violence against minors, and women
According to INACIF data, 942 minors under 19 years old were murdered in 2017. To this, we add 4,557 reported cases of sexual violence against minors and 5,635 reported cases of abuse. In all three cases, girls are the most affected, with 54% of deaths, 59% of reported abuse cases and 90% of reported sexual abuse cases.
Moreover, Guatemala is one of the countries with highest rates of teenage pregnancies. Last year, some 40,000 girls between 10 and 17 years old became pregnant, with 2,153 of them being under 14 years old. The most affected departments in this aspect are Alta Verapaz, Guatemala City, Huehuetenango and El Petén, all with more than 200 pregnant girls according to the data provided by SVET. In addition, there were more than 10,000 complaints of sexual abuse during 2018, 600 of them being in Quetzaltenango, the department where Trama's office is located.
Inequality, education and drug trafficking
Guatemala is in the top ten countries of the world with the highest levels of inequality. As much as 59% of the population lives in poverty while 10% of the population accumulates 40% of the country's wealth according to the statistics of ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean).
Furthermore, the presence of drug trafficking and gangs, particularly in the capital, is a major problem, made more difficult to solve given the lack of police officers. To draw a better picture of the imbalance, Guatemala has less than 40,000 police officers, yet 125,000 private security agents have been contracted for protection by regular civilians and businesses. According to the World Bank, approximately 15% of Guatemalans own a gun.
A small hope
According to official data released by the Guatemalan Government, last year the total number of homicides was reduced from 27 per 100,000 inhabitants to 22, putting 2018 as the least violent since 2000.
Deprivation of education, high in violence
Approximately 50% of children do not attend school, and less than 200,000 students complete their final year. Due to an exclusionary education system and a government that is ineffective in responding to its people's problems, many NGOs and cooperatives work to try and break the cycle of economic and educational poverty. While there is much work to be done, the progress of these organizations is clearly visible and supporting them is a fundamental part of the recovery process in Guatemala.
Written by Jorge Saul