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Ola de violencia preocupa Guatemala
CRIME: The number of violent crimes reported by U.S. citizens and other foreigners has remained high in recent years. Incidents include, but are not limited to, assault, theft, armed robbery, carjacking, rape, kidnapping, and murder. Criminals often operate in groups of four or more and are confrontational and violent. Gangs are a growing concern in Guatemala City and rural Guatemala. Gang members are often well armed with sophisticated weaponry and they sometimes use massive amounts of force. Emboldened armed robbers have attacked vehicles on main roads in broad daylight. Travel on rural roads always increases the risk of a criminal roadblock or ambush. Widespread narcotics and alien smuggling activities can make remote areas especially dangerous. Though there is no evidence that Americans are particularly targeted, criminals look for every opportunity to attack, so all travelers should remain constantly vigilant.
Most tourists and visitors travel throughout Guatemala without mishap. However, violent criminal activity on the highways continues, and tourists, among others, have been targeted. Many of the robbery attempts have occurred in daylight hours on main highways. Carjacking incidents and highway robberies are often violent. Four Americans were killed in highway robbery attempts in 2002 and three killed and one wounded in 2003. In 2004 one American tourist was murdered, and women and children were raped in highway assaults. Several highway assaults of American citizens also took place in 2005, but without serious injury to the victims. In 2006, there were 19 incidents of assault against Americans in motor vehicles reported to the Embassy, none of which involved death or injury. In nine of these incidents, the victims were arriving at Guatemala City’s airport.
In 2007 there has been an increasing number of carjacking incidents and armed robberies of travelers who have just arrived on international flights, most frequently between 6:00 a.m and 10:00 am, but also in the evening (see list of Recent Crime Incidents Involving Foreigners on the Embassy website for more specifics). In the most common scenario tourists or business travelers who land at the airport around 7:00 am are held up by armed men as their vehicle departs the airport. Private vehicles, taxis and shuttle buses have been attacked. Typically, the assailants steal money, passports, and luggage, and in some but not all cases, the assailants steal the vehicle as well. Recently, many of these attacks have taken place far from the airport, just as travelers arrived at their homes, or in less busy areas of the city. Laptops are frequently targeted, so carry them inconspicuously in a backpack or other carryon luggage. Victims who did not resist the attackers were not physically injured. The Embassy advises its own employees to seek alternative routes for exiting the airport.
In some cases, assailants have been wearing full or partial police uniforms and have used vehicles that resemble police vehicles, indicating that some elements of the police might be involved. Armed robberies have occurred within minutes of the tourist’s vehicle being stopped by the police. U.S. Embassy personnel continue to observe heightened security precautions in Guatemala City and on the roads outside the capital city. U.S. tourists are urged to be especially aware of safety and security concerns when traveling on the roads in Guatemala. Rather than traveling alone, use a reputable tour organization. Stay in groups; travel in a caravan consisting of two or more vehicles; and, stay on the main roads. Ensure that someone not traveling with you is aware of your itinerary. Resist the temptation to stay in hotels that do not have adequate security. Travel after dark anywhere in Guatemala is extremely dangerous. It is preferable to stay in the main tourist destinations. Do not explore back roads or isolated paths near tourist sites. Pay close attention to your surroundings, especially when walking or when driving in Guatemala City. Refrain from displaying expensive-looking jewelry, large amounts of money, laptop computers, or other valuable items. Finally, if confronted by criminals, be aware that resistance may provoke a more violent response.