Guatemala: La Vida No Vale Nada
There's a common phrase Guatemalans say about violence in their country: En Guatemala, la vida no vale nada. In Guatemala, life is worth nothing.
Fifteen years after the end of its bloody and genocidal civil war, Guatemala elected its first peacetime military leader, a former army general who emerged from retirement shrouded with human rights abuses.
During the country’s 36-year civil war, (1960-1996), about 200,000 people were killed and another 50,000 “disappeared” and buried in mass graves throughout the country. It left a brutal legacy of violence on the social fabric of this highly indigenous country.
As Guatemalans continue to recover from decades of political violence, the growth of cartel, gang and street violence increase. A hired assassin can earn about $20 per murder. Mexican drug cartels are new players in a complex mix of paramilitary and vigilante groups in the shadowlands between state and organized crime in Guatemala. While today there is no official war, Guatemalans live with 98% impunity, and a homicide rate of 40 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, some critics say Guatemala is on the verge of becoming a failed state.
Population of Guatemala: 14.7 mil
Pop. of Greater Guatemala City: 2.5 mil
Area: 108,890 sq. km (about the size of Tennessee)
Homicide Rate: 5681 (2011); 5960 (2010); 6570 (2009)
Crimes: Transnational drug cartels, extortion, domestic violence, robbery, abductions, and gang activity.