President Alvaro Colom ordered soldiers deployed Thursday on the streets of the Guatemalan capital to aid police in quelling violent crime, the government said.The decision follows several weeks of particularly brutal attacks that while gaining international coverage has probably still been overshadowed by the violence in Mexico. The business community has been clamoring for Colom to send in the military while others are calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty.
“President Colom on Wednesday instructed the Defense Ministry for the army to collaborate with the civilian security forces,” presidential press secretary Ronaldo Robles told Efe.
He said troops and police will conduct joint patrols in high risk areas of Guatemala City with an emphasis on protecting buses, targeted by youth gangs running protection rackets.
The defense minister, Gen. Abraham Valenzuela, told reporters 500 soldiers are taking part in the operation and that they would remain on the streets as long as necessary.
According to the article,
The army deployment follows several horrific attacks in recent weeks, including one in which a bus was set ablaze with the passengers still aboard.Did anybody hear about this one? I'm not sure whether they are confusing Guatemala and El Salvador. The have been recent grenade attacks, but I haven't heard this happening in Guatemala.
Anyway, Interior Minister Carlos Menocal repeats the line that "the mayhem is part of a strategy by organized crime to terrorize the population." President Colom characterized the attacks on the transport system as "terrorist attacks."
First, how do we know that the attacks against public transportation in Guatemala (and El Salvador) are part of a conspiracy to "terrorize the population" carried out by organized crime? When I think organized crime in Guatemala, I think the hidden or parallel powers. Organized crime's goal isn't necessarily to terrorize, but perhaps to maximize profits by destabilizing the country and/or discrediting Colom and CICIG. If the attacks were part of some conspiracy to terrorize the population, I would expect somewhat random attacks against the bus system, businesses, and other soft targets.
On the other hand, these attacks might simply have been carried out by street gangs who seek "stability" in public transport operations - pay the damn rent. If this is the motivation, one would expect the attacks to be carried out against drivers and companies who refuse to give in to the extortion demands. The drivers and companies who pay should be left unharmed.
I'm doubtful one can track these things, especially in Guatemala, but perhaps someone in the Interior Ministry is tracking information on attacks and extortion and this gives them greater confidence in their assertions. However, I don't have that information and it's really difficult to determine whether the attacks are part of a plan to destabilize the country or simply to put pressure on the buses to pay up.