Here's the Colom administration tooting its own horn. Maybe now people will ask why is the murder rate going down rather than up?
- Is the decrease the result of effective government policies (e.g., better policing, less corruption, more police, etc.)?
- Is the decrease the result of the state's withdrawal from certain conflict-prone areas of the country or the consolidation of power by local gangs and transnational criminal networks?
- Have Guatemalans somehow changed the way they behave (don't go out at night, pay extortion) so as to avoid death?
- Was the murder decline simply the result of a successful state of siege in Alta Verapaz rather than broad-based success?
I don't think anybody actually knows why the rate has gone down two years in a row. Partly that's because they've been asking why it has been going up. That's why I had a hard time taking many of their analyses seriously.
People would keep writing about a security situation spiraling out of control by presenting 2009's horrific murder statistics and/or they would neglect evidence that a decline in murders had been occurring over the last 24 months. Prensa Libre would support its Murders Continue headline with evidence that the murder rate in Coatepeque, Quetzaltenango had dropped 25%. There was also all the reporting that 2011 election cycle was the "most violent" in recent history with 43 dead in campaign-related killings. However, a US CRS Report to Congress reported 56 dead in 2007. Likewise, an EU report claimed over 50 dead in 2007. While 2011's election might have been more violent than those of the past, using statistics on the number of murders committed during the campaigns did not support that conclusion. Then there was El Periodico's October reporting of a sharp increase in the murder rate when its number showed the opposite.
Anyway, here's one possible explanation for the decline in murders that I haven't heard in a while. In Wikileaks cable from May 2008, Carlos Castresana told the US Embassy that he thought 25% of the murders in the country had been of the extrajudicial killing variety. Perhaps the government hasn't been as effective at reducing murders carried out by criminal elements. They've only been successful at reducing the number of murders committed by on-duty and off-duty security personnel. Maybe someone who is in the country can ask "people in the know."