The Militarization of Antigua Guatemala

Rudy Giron: Antigua Guatemala &emdash; The Militarization of Antigua Guatemala

What are your thoughts regarding the militarisation of Antigua Guatemala? Do you think it is appropriate for the Municipal Police to have soldiers patrolling the streets with them? I want to hear as many points of view as possible.

© 2017, Rudy Giron. All rights reserved.

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  • Lita

    It doesn’t seem necessary to me.

    • I agree with you. Soldiers receive training for killing not policing.

      • Mercutio57

        This is what I was thinking, Rudy. I’m ok with having MPs (Military Police) augment the regular cops if it is really needed, because MPs get similar training. And, I stress, only when it is really needed. But regular infantry patrolling the streets like this? With assault rifles instead of just sidearms? To my U.S. eyes that is bad news indeed. Here in el Norte we only put soldiers on the streets in serious emergencies, where there is rioting and looting. Even then they can only be National Guard units, for, thanks to the Posse Comitatus Act, the regulars cannot be used as police. I don’t know what the authorities there are thinking, but I think is is a very bad move, considering the importance of tourism to the Guatemalan economy. Where I’m from seeing soldiers on the street like this says one thing: “DANGEROUS, UNSTABLE BANANA REPUBLIC.” Does the Guatemalan government really want to project that horrible image again? Someone needs to tell the authorities how this looks to foreign eyes. It’s a bad move.

        • J Crich

          Is there any data to suggest a recent uptick of crime in Antigua? Irbdinyoubthinlnthis show of force is to send a message? If so, what message is it intended to send? These are not rhetorical questions. I have never been to Guatemala but am strongly considering a trip this summer. Unfortunately, this is a tough thing to ascertain over the internet and hence my interaction in this site. I would love to visit Guatemala, especially Antigua and area and Tikal. But I have to consider the safety of my family first. Thanks.

          • It has nothing with the safety real or perceived in Antigua Guatemala. The president was elected with the support of the old guard of the Guatemalan Army and that’s why they are put on the streets. I’m not sure where you live, but I’m almost certain Antigua Guatemala is safer than your city.

          • Mercutio57

            I’ve been there many times, and will continue to go. I have never had any security concerns in Antigua Guatemala. Of course I also grew up in NYC in the 60s and 70s, so I suppose it could be argued that I don’t scare easily! But seriously, I have never had any reason for concern. As for the motive behind this show of force, I cannot say. Rudy is a local, so at this point I will go with his explanation. By all means come and see for yourself. When I first visited years ago the U.S. State Dept. website made Guatemala sound like hell on earth. Instead I found my own piece of paradise.

        • Jose Byron Gonzalez

          There isn’t “military police” in the way you understand it in the Guatemalan military. It was created as a sort of for-profit, private guard for guarding facilities. Antigua was always safer than the city, though I heard over the last couple of years it’s been getting worse but this was only meant to give people a sense of false security, since they believe soldiers are less likely to be part of organized crime structures. You’re right, the authorities aren’t thinking, period, hard stop. But as Rudy aptly indicates, the president is beholden to the ancient guard of the army and their ways.

          • Mercutio57

            Interesting. Of course my understanding of MPs is colored by my experience working for Uncle Sam. It is to be expected that it would be different in Guatemala.

          • Jose Byron Gonzalez

            Indeed. I served in both and they are a few galaxies apart.

          • Mercutio57

            And I thought my switching from the USAF to the US Army was an institutional culture change!

          • Jose Byron Gonzalez

            I was lucky in that, when I served there, I was branded a “communist” and left the army and the country before they got me. Communist, you see, was anyone who read, wanted to think and use common sense/decency and questioned orders. It was a bit of a shock not having to cower before officers or NCOs when I came here or offer them “commissions” from my pay. Friends of mine who went from serving here to there had it much harder, they never lasted more than a few months, if not weeks.

            True story: there were two of us in the running for a scholarship to West Point due to our command of English. The guy who got it was the son of a colonel and had the connections and influence, me, needless to say, had nothing. He graduated West Point, went back and lasted exactly six weeks before he was forced out. Now he is a realtor in NY.

  • J Crich

    What is the rationale for this? Has crime been getting worse in Antigua? Or is it an over abundance of caution? I have never been to Antigua but am considering a vacation there next summer with my family. Is it safe there? It looks like a fabulous place.

    • This isn’t something that is happening only in La Antigua Guatemala, but rather sadly in the entire country. We have, after all, a president who represents the old guard of the Guatemalan Army.

      • Mercutio57

        Well, if he thinks that this is comforting or reassuring to foreign visitors he clearly hasn’t been talking to any of us. Somebody from INGUAT needs to enlighten him ASAP, because this really bad PR. Not too long ago Guatemala was viewed in my country as a great place to get “disappeared” in. I myself have spent the last 17 years telling people that this isn’t so, but now this? What will my friends think when they see soldiers patrolling the streets? This is a spectacularly stupid move on the part of the government. Guatemala needs to attract foreign visitors, investors and expats, not scare them off.

    • Mercutio57

      It is a fabulous place, and the impression you’re getting from Rudy’s work here is true and accurate.

    • Jose Byron Gonzalez

      If you exercise common sense it still is a fabulous destination for you and your family. I sent a friend of mine last summer (they have three toddlers) and they loved it. To me it is safer than Guatemala CIty. By common sense I mean avoid flashing wads of cash or your smartphones, sitting outside with your shiny new laptop, etc. During the holy week (2015) my wife and I walked around with 2 large SLR cameras until 2 AM and in July went back with the kids and were always safe.

  • J Crich

    Thank you all for your perspective. I certainly will maintain a low profile when I visit and do not plan on spending much time in Guatamala City itself. Can you tell me what the roads are like from Antigua to Tikal? Are they mostly highways or a serious of small county/mountain roads? Are they safe at night? Or is it best to travel in the day? I would like to see Antigua, Tikal, Lake Attitlan and hike a volcano in the Antigua area.

    I am from a mid-western town north of Cinccinnati which is very safe. However, when I travel to larger U.S. cities such as Chicago or Detroit, I will carry concealed. Unfortunately, when I am in a foreign country I cannot. This, I need to have a heightened situational awareness.

    I have zero hesitancy if I was traveling by myself. But traveling with a young girl, I need to be extra vigilant.

    • Jeannine

      uhm…. you mean to say when you go to big cities, you walk around with a loaded gun ????? That’s the problem with the US if you ask me…. if you all run around with guns, you can”‘t be surprised there is so much more deadly crime than in Europe for example…. Antigua definately doesn’t need any trigger happy tourists though…..

      • J Crich

        Jeannine, I wasn’t asking you. Nor was this forum discussion about the issue of gun rights in the United States. I am trying to understand points of view as to why there has been an increase in militarized police in Guatemala and Antigua. The viewpoints that have been shared (excluding yours) have been helpful in providing me some additional context. Your implication that I am not welcome in Antigua because I might be a “trigger happy tourist” is ridiclous on many levels. First of all, as a law abiding person, I would never enter a county and knowingly violate their laws. That is disrespectiful and wrong. I will not expand beyond that point even though you are wrong on many levels. Perhaps it’s isn’t guns that you don’t like, but it’s people with points of view different than your own. Very fascist if you.

    • Mercutio57

      If by “highway” you mean restricted access, divided multilane roads a la the Autobahn or U.S. Interstate system, the answer is no. Think two lane blacktop, often with pedestrians, bicycles, horses and chuchos on the shoulder. As I stated before, I have never felt myself to be in any sort of danger here, but it is definitely not “First World.” The roads connecting Antigua to Lake Atitlan and the Capital are well-traveled, for obvious reasons, and appear pretty safe to me. I’ve never been to Tikal, so I can’t help you there. I’m told that on Volcano hikes you can run into some dodgy characters, so a lot of people do that in groups with a guard/guide. As for nighttime vs. daytime travel, I much prefer day, for obvious reasons, but have traveled here at night a few times without incident.