Men With Guns: Guatemalan Police

A special report by Adam Garett-Clark

It should be familiar by now; the long shiny boots, spiffy jumpsuits of varying colors, serious expressions of boredom and of course the giant frick’n gun jutting from the waist, beret optional. These are the brave men and men who valiantly display their death machinery in Xela’s public in the name of security. But who are these chiselled dischargers? What exactly is their purpose? And under what circumstances will they shoot us?

Of the roughly five groups of institutions that have the capacity to order you around, only 4 are packin’ heat. It is important to note that all groups confirmed no shots would be fired unless a gun is drawn on them first, so leave the rocket launchers in your room with the passport and travellers checks.

The security situation is best described as a happy family of morbid siblings. And with a 36 year civil war in its recent history, everyone has plenty of toys to play with: M16’s, AK47’s and 9mm’s are the prevalent favourites.

Young Johnny Policia Municipal Transito (PMT) has recently been seen singing on TV commercials. Wearing beige shirts with red trim and black or neon yellow vests and black pants, these officers only carry batons and flashlights and are responsible for giving parking tickets and enforcing traffic laws.

Slightly stronger is little Danny Policia Municipal. This force is more preventative than combative, they say. Dressed in navy blue and grey, only some of them carry pistols along with the batons and esposas which appropriately is the Spanish word for handcuffs. Policia Municipal secures all municipal property and street vendors.

Above these two young upstarts is that handsome mischievous middle child, Robby Policia Nacional Civil (PNC). Robby recently got new clothes, as of August 1, in Xela. The change from white and black to all black was admittedly to appear more intimidating; as if the semi automatic Uzi wasn’t enough. Usually hanging out with the PNC is the older reserved Joe Seguridad Ciudadana (SC), a division of the Guatemalan Army. These are the green fatigue-ers walking around with canteens and equally giant guns; all have a black arm band that reads SC.

Joe was called upon by governmental dad last year to help out the PNC with the rising crime on the streets. SC is a smaller force which can’t make arrests and is solely there to support, advise and keep the PNC honest, because a veces they aren’t.

And finally, no one can forget everyone’s favourite cousin, private security; a booming business that manages to acquire the same arms as the police and is highly unregulated. No one knows exactly how many private policemen there are but one estimate is that they out-number civil police 3 to 1.

Now you know and knowing is half the battle, the other half is surrounded by thirty well armed ex-military men on little sleep.

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