The top United Nations drug and crime official and Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom oversaw the destruction of some 6,000 illegal firearms today at the launch of a national programme to fight organized crime in a country that has a gun for every 10 people.
“Corruption, poverty and poor criminal justice capacity make Guatemala extremely vulnerable to organized crime,” said Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
“In turn, crime scares off investors and tourists, deepening the under-development that attracts crime. It’s time to break this vicious circle before it breaks Guatemala,” Mr. Costa added at the launch of the National Integrated Programme on the Strengthening of the Rule of Law, Security and Justice in Guatemala.
The three-year programme – worth $16 million – is designed to strengthen Guatemala’s capacity in the areas of criminal justice, police reform, anti-corruption, firearms control, prison reform, cybercrime, and human trafficking.
Cocaine and other drugs are having an impact in the Central American country located between the Andean region, the world’s top producer of coca, and the United States, the top consumer. The same routes used to smuggle drugs are used to smuggle migrants and weapons.
As part of the programme, UNODC will establish a Centre of Excellence on Organized Crime in Guatemala City.
The Centre will support the development of applied research, data collection and analysis on crime trends, and provide training to national and regional authorities on counteracting organized crime.
Guatemala will join a regional network of Centres of Excellence, including centres for: urban crime prevention (El Salvador); maritime security (Panama); and drug demand reduction and prison reform (the Dominican Republic).
Mr. Costa appealed to funding partners to provide the resources needed to implement the full range of activities designed to strengthen security and justice.
The Programme will be jointly implemented by the Government and UNODC, and complement related activities being carried out by the International Commission against Impunity (CICIG) and the Central American Integration System (SICA).