According to industry officials, there are around 300,000 private security guards working in the Central America region. The number of private guards in the region are higher than the number of police officers in the region. The rise in security guards to attributed to fears of kidnap for ransom activities.
In Guatemala, there are 24,000 police officers in the country. The number of security guards is estimated to be around 100,000.
In Costa Rica and Honduras, there are twice as many security guards as police officers in each country.
The private security guard industry in the region is growing at 8 percent annually.
Source: AFP, “Private security industry grows as organized crime spreads through Central America,” Tico Times, October 21, 2012.
Federal authorities in the United States estimates that street gang Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, has at least 30,000 members in its organization. The members are spread out across the Americas region, with members known to be in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.
In the United States, there are at least 8,000 members operating in the country. They have been identified in over 40 countries and in Washington, DC, and are primarily involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking and murder. Between 2006 and 2012, Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested over 4,000 MS-13 members.
The gang members are recognized for their extensive tattoos.
Source: Samuel Rubenfeld, “Treasury Labels MS-13 Transnational Criminal Organization,” Wall Street Journal, Corruption Currents Blog, October 11, 2012.
There are an estimated 1.6 million illegal arms being trafficked around Guatemala in 2011.
The homicide rate in the country was 52 people per 100,000 in 2011.
Source: Guy Adams, “Guatemala’s bloody battle with Mexican drug cartels,” Independent, November 5, 2011.
Drug cartel Los Zetas was charging migrants between $7,000 to $10,000 per person to be smuggled from Central American countries through Mexico and into the United States.
The drug trafficking cartel diversified into human smuggling and had recruiters in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to transport people along supply routes towards the U.S. border.
Source: Tim Johnson, “Violent Mexican drug gang, Zetas, taking control of migrant smuggling,” Miami Herald, August 12, 2011.
According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, over 90 percent of the cocaine from South America that enters the US first travels through Guatemala.
The Mexican government employs 125 immigration officers on the 540 mile border between Guatemala and Mexico. In comparison, the United States employs 30,000 agents on its border with Mexico.
Source: Nick Miroff and William Booth, “In southern Mexico, a neglected frontier,” Washington Post, June 21, 2011.
Migrants from Guatemala paid human smugglers $7,000 to be smuggled into the United States from Mexico in 2011.
The human smuggling fee from Guatemala is up from the reported price of $2,450 in 2008.
Source: Associated Press, “Mexico police find 513 US-bound migrants in trucks,” Yahoo News, May 17, 2011.
The Mexican drug cartel Zetas was operating in up to 75 percent of Guatemala’s territory in 2010, according to drug intelligence officials.
Source: Reuters, “Guatemala captures 22 drug traffickers in sweep,” Yahoo News, December 26, 2010.