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Guatemalans March Against Violence - 2004-08-14


Thousands of Guatemalans marched on the capital's central park Friday to demand the government address the crime and violence that plagues the country.

The march extended for over 10 city blocks and as it made its way to the center of the city, many of the protesters shouted "long leave peace and enough is enough with all this violence."

The protest is a sign of the growing sense of desperation in Guatemala because of runaway crime and sky high murder rates.

Last year, in this nation of 11 million people, over 4,000 people were murdered, and this year's death toll could be even higher. In the first six months, nearly 2,500 people were murdered.

Nine year old Javier Contreras carried a poster during the march with the photo of a woman on it. Below the photo were the words: "Mommy we miss you." His mother was shot dead three months ago in a robbery on the streets of Guatemala city.

His uncle, Jaime Ajuchan, accompanied him at the march. "It's been three months now and we haven't heard anything," he says. "The crime hasn't been solved and we are here to demand justice."

In recent weeks the government has stationed soldiers on the streets of the capital to assist the police and has passed a law that will force bars to close at one o'clock in the morning. But analysts predict these measures won't make much of a dent in crime rates. Guatemala has a serious gang problem, as well as powerful organized crime syndicates and many illegal weapons. What's more, analysts say the judicial is ineffective, starting with a deeply corrupt police force that is unable to apprehend those who commit crime.

In past years, on average, 90 percent of the cases that prosecutors received were never resolved.