Gang Violence in Guatemala Rivals Mexico
May 04, 2009, 06:12 PM
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The rather eye-catching photo below highlights worsening violence in Guatemala, which is apparently giving Mexico a run for the title of most violent Latin American country.

Relatives of bus drivers killed by gang members while on duty, demonstrate against violence, at the Congress in Guatemala City on April 30, 2009. At least 44 bus drivers and 16 of their assistants were killed by gang members in 2009 in Guatemala.

Gang-related bus murders rattle Guatemala capital, Reuters, April 17, 2009

GUATEMALA CITY, April 17 (Reuters) - Guatemalan police have arrested a street gang leader on suspicion of organizing the murders of dozens of bus drivers, part of a wave of attacks on the capital`s public transport system.

Police say 21-year-old Axel Ramirez, alias "El Smaily" ("Smiley"), belongs to the "Mara 18" gang and ordered more than 20 shootings of bus drivers and fare collectors for not paying extortionists.

Ramirez, arrested on Thursday after a shootout, had been released from prison in December after serving about four years for murdering a rival gang member.

"He was doing a lot of harm, not just extorting our country but organizing murders and generating terror wherever he lived," Interior Minister Salvador Gandara told local radio.

Gangs have attacked more than 40 bus employees this year. Usually the killers pull up to rickety city buses on motorcycles and open fire, or climb aboard and shoot the drivers.

Some 135 bus drivers were slain last year, 50 percent more than in 2007 and more than twice the number murdered in 2006.

Buses often crash after the shootings and passengers are killed or injured in the mayhem. Some bus companies have staged transit strikes in protest.

It`s unfortunate that so much violence is continuing in Guatemala. From available reports, the savagery appears more destructive than the gang-on-gang killings in Mexico, since average people like bus drivers are targeted in Guatemala.

However, that level of criminality should be a reminder that not all diversity is equal, and America should be far more culturally judicious in the legal immigrants it permits.

According to the 2000 Census, 480,665 Guatemalans resided in this country at that time. Another notable statistic is that between 1998 and 2004, the United States deported more than 34,000 criminals to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.