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    17 March 2010

    UNODC Assists Guatemala to Fight Organized Crime

    VIENNA, 17 March (UN Information Service) - Today in Guatemala City, President Alvaro Colom of Guatemala and the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, launched the National Integrated Programme on the Strengthening of the Rule of Law, Security and Justice in Guatemala. The three year programme, worth US$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.

    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). Mr. Costa appealed to funding partners to provide the resources needed to implement the full range of activities designed to strengthen security and justice.

    "Corruption, poverty and poor criminal justice capacity make Guatemala extremely vulnerable to organized crime," said Mr. Costa. "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," said Mr. Costa.

    Guatemala's geography exacerbates the problem as the country is caught in the cross-fire between the world's biggest producers of coca (the Andean countries) and the world's biggest consumers of cocaine (North America). A growing share of the 200 tons of cocaine that flow north every year is transiting Central America, and sowing a path of death and destruction. The same routes are also being used to smuggle migrants and weapons. In 2009, 15.7 tons of cocaine were seized, including 10 tons found on a mini-submarine off the coast.

    The lucrative drugs trade, estimated to be worth twice Guatemala's GDP, is a major source of corruption, it undermines the rule of law, and threatens security. Drugs are also a source of revenue for youth gangs (maras). The police, drug enforcement agents, and senior officials are coerced by the bullet and the bribe. Some provinces along key trafficking routes have the highest murder rates in the world (around 100 murders per 100,000 inhabitants).

    Mr. Costa announced that 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. It will be part of a regional network of Centres of Excellence including on: urban crime prevention (in El Salvador); maritime security (in Panama); and drug demand reduction and prison reform (in the Dominican Republic).

    As a first symbolic step in the implementation of the national anti-crime programme in Guatemala, Mr. Costa and President Colom presided over the destruction of over 6,000 illegal firearms. According to Government estimates, there are around 400,000 registered weapons in the country. It is estimated that there are 1.6 million illegal weapons in circulation - more than one gun for every ten inhabitants. Almost 80 percent of homicides in Guatemala are committed with firearms. In 2009, there were more than 5,300 homicides. A high number of women (722) and children (591) were among the victims. "Destroying these guns can reduce violent crime in Guatemala, but there are plenty more swords to turn into ploughshares," said Mr. Costa.

    Images for broadcasters will be available on 18 March 2010 at 15:00 GMT on the following links:

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    For further information contact:

    Walter Kemp
    Spokesman and Speechwriter, UNODC
    Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5629