Sunday, February 20, 2011

Alta Verapaz State of Siege Lifted

On Friday, President Colom lifted the two month state of siege in Alta Verapaz. The siege gave Guatemalan security forces the right to conduct searches without warrants and to detain suspects without them as well. The measure also prohibited gun possession, limited freedom of association and freedom of the press. While the emergency powers will no longer be in effect, hundreds of soldiers and police will remain in the department for the foreseeable future.

At the end of the two months, security forces supposedly arrested at least 20 suspected members of the Mexico-based Zetas, seized 230 guns, and 5 planes. According to Interior Minister Carlos Menocal, crime dropped 50 percent during the state of siege. He also argued that the state of siege led to a reduction in the number of homicides (28 in the two months preceding the state of siege and 6 in the two months since the siege began)

I would be more impressed if the government had more tangible results from the two-month operation. The arrests of two dozen Zetas (even if we generously give the government the benefit of the doubt that they are all Zetas), a few hundred guns, five planes, and some airstrips doesn't impress me. Either the Zetas were tipped off and left the department prior to the siege or the intelligence was wrong - this was not the nerve center for the Zetas in Guatemala.
Obviously, I am happy for the people of Guatemala and Alta Verapaz that murders dropped since the state of siege began but I will be more impressed if the low murder rate continues after the state of siege ends. However, given that hundreds of police and military are remaining in the department, it's a bit disingenuous to say that it has ended.


  1. Since I have relatives in the area, I am very happy with any measure of success in the region.

  2. I think that we're all happy with the success of the siege in terms of reducing violence in the region. However, I'm not sure that anyone is convinced that the government has a long-term plan to maintain the current situation. I guess that will be up to the next administration to decide anyway.