Headline Mar 14, 2015/ ''' GUATEMALA CITY [TO] MOUSETRAP CITY '''



THE METAMORPHOSIS  of Guatemala City into Mousetrap city began, suitable enough with cheese.

Before the smuggling trails of this region were used for the passage of narcotics, the gang used them to foil US trade restrictions against dairy produce.

It was during the Seventies and Eighties that cocaine replaced it, and then, too, that the Central American corridor began to suffer the highest murder rates in the world.

But as convenient as it might be for Guatemala to blame foreign cartels for its failures, official figures suggest that fewer than half of of all killings are drug related.

The real problem, of course, is money; individuals choose the profitable trades of crime when there are few others; society desiccates when the cash runs shallow. 

**Guatemala has one the most unequal distributions of wealth on the planet**.

*It boasts the highest per capita  use of private aircraft and helicopters in central America*.

*While more than 50 per cent of its residents live below the poverty line and half of all under fives are chronically malnourished*.

The UN estimates that violence costs the nation 7.3 per cent of its GDP annually. A loss Guatemala can ill afford as it struggles with a certain difficulty that exists the world over:

Tax, and the non-payment of it by big business. Here, tax revenues as a percentage of GDP is among the lowest in the world.  

''LIFE TODAY is very spontaneous,'' Garcia says. ''You are always thinking about how you're going to survive.''

The residents of the city live a present tense existence. Garcia's sister Marta tells of being caught in one of the frequent hold-ups on public buses, by gang members with pump-action shotguns.

''I cannot explain what it is to experience a single moment that decides your whole life,'' she says.

''They decide whether you live or die. You're so fragile, but this is life in Peronia. I was going to into the house at 3pm, one day, when three people were shot in front of me. I only just managed to get in before I was killed in the crossfire.

The neighbourhood is on a steep hill. Some of the streets are blocked off and that's where people are killed. They could be robberies or just because someone made disrespectful gesture. Every three or four hours some one's attacked.''

Until a year ago, bags of cocaine were sold openly like sweets. The army and the police conducted house-to-house raids, confiscating the narcotics. But the residents 'received them with guns'.

Today, most of the roads leading into Zone Three are blocked by yellow concrete barriers that the army has erected, apparently to stop drive-by shootings.

The government is trying to push through major reforms at the moment   -11 proposed laws-  but the opposition is resisting them:

''We need the money to prevent violence and malnutrition,'' said vice minister of finance Maria Castro. ''We also need to pay the police, to prevent corruption.

There are assassins in the police force, paid by the narcos. And there was recently a big round up of gang members and within them there are officers.

Police rounding up police. This is a big problem.''

More troubling still, the narco traffickers are moving ever further into domestic society:

''One they were Mexican, now they're homegrown Guatemalans,'' Castro says. ''This country used to be just a route. Now it's a base.''   
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SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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