GUATEMALA CITY – The Guatemalan government has ordered the army to provide security at schools in two capital neighborhoods besieged by violent youth gangs.
An army spokesman, Col. Daniel Domínguez, told reporters July 6 that 30 soldiers will provide 24-hour security around schools in the south Guatemala City districts of Villa Nueva and Barcenas.
Gangs in those neighborhoods have taken to demanding protection money not only from bus drivers and merchants – the usual victims – but from teachers and schoolchildren as well.
Domínguez said that while the soldiers will coordinate their efforts with police, the troops will be in army uniforms and carrying battlefield weapons.
“The students’ parents and the teachers asked the government for the presence of military personnel, and this request got an immediate response,” the colonel said.
Two weeks ago, some 400 police and soldiers carried out raids as part of the “rescue” of Villa Nueva from the gangs, arresting more than 60 suspected gang members.
But most of those arrested were quickly released because prosecutors lacked the evidence to sustain charges against them.