Guatemala has one of the highest levels of crime and violent crime in the Central American region. Following successive record levels in 2008 and 2009, when homicides reached 6,498 at a rate of 46 per 100,000 inhabitants, the period of 2010-2012 witnessed a halt in this trend, with the national figure dropping to 34.3. Despite optimism surrounding this, regional variation is considerable, and despite a notable decrease in metropolitan Guatemala in addition to 3 other regions, increased rates were recorded in Petén and the northeastern, southeastern and central regions, displaying the continued prevalence of widespread structural insecurity.
The territorial distribution of deaths related to criminal investigations follows a distinct pattern. Beyond the expected high rates in metropolitan Guatemala (86.1 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants), there are further hotspots located along the borders with Honduras, El Salvador, Belize and the Pacific Ocean, whilst the western and northern regions record levels far below the national average.
With the signing of the Agreement on the Strengthening of Civilian Power and the Role of the Army in a Democratic Society (1996), the public security system was restructured, establishing civilian control over security and creating a National Civil Police force. Over the years, and unlike in other cases, the jurisdiction of the police has remained constant, although there has been a frequent change in both the ministerial authority and the leadership of the police.
The Interior Ministry has the principal role, while other stake- holders include the Ministry of Defense, the Office of the Public Prosecutor and the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman.
• National Civil Police (PNC): established as a new force in 1997 as a result of the Peace Accords. It brings together elements of the now defunct National Police and Guardia de Hacienda, in addition to new members. Since its creation, it has been a de- pendent of the Ministry of Interior.
• Interior Ministry: It is the institution responsible for public security. The PNC, as well as other dependencies, such as the Directorate of Migration, are under its authority.
• Defense Sector: The Policía Militar Ambulante, which was previously under the authority of the Ministry of Defense, was dissolved following the signing of the Peace Accords, consolidating the Armed Forces (apolitical and obedient to the civilian authority) as the only body linked to the defense sector.
• Councils: In 2008 the National Security Council (CNS) was created. It coordinates the National Security System under the Framework Law of the National Security System (Decree No 18-2008).
•The Security Advisory Council, created by the Peace Accords as an institution dedicated to advisory and citizen auditing functions, is the interlocutor between civil society and state institutions responsible for security.
• Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDDH): without being subject to the authority of any other institution since its creation in 1987, the Ombudsman is commissioned by Con- gress to defend human rights, and occupies the position for a period of five years.
• Secretary of Executive Coordination: Established in 1997, it collaborates with the President in the coordination of the national system of urban and rural development councils, and the system of regional and departmental councils, which seek to in- crease community participation in prioritizing security needs.
• Institute for Public Penal Defense (IDPP): Since 1994 it provides assistance to the Guatemalan population through the provision of free legal advice. It is currently independent of any other institution.
Up until 1996, the police system was composed of three bodies: the National Police, Guardia de Hacienda and the Policia Militar Ambulante, which received military training and whose main tasks were dedicated to control of the population.
The signing of the Agreement on the Strengthening of Civilian Power and on the Role of the Armed Forces in a Democratic Society (Acuerdo sobre fortalecimiento del poder civil y función del Ejército en una sociedad democrática) led to the restructuring of the system and the creation of the National Civil Police (PNC). Into this new body, personnel from the former National Police and the Guardia de Hacienda were incorporated, in addition to newly recruited police officers, and by 2001 the PNC had a total of 19,031 members, of which 8,568 (45%) were new members and the remaining 10,463 (55%) officers from the previous police bodies.
Guatemala in “The Public Security Index”
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