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Guatemala gets a bump in its police force

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Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters

(Read caption) Anti-riot police stand in the streets after an attempted shooting and robbing in the streets of the downtown Guatemala City last week. Guatemala has one of the world's highest murder rates, and one way President Molina has tried to address this is by adding 2,000 more police since he took office in January 2012.

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• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, centralamericanpolitics.blogspot.com. The views expressed are the author's own.

Guatemala's National Civil Police graduated 1,617 new agents last Friday. That brings the PNC's total to 25,383, almost 2,000 more than the country counted when Otto Perez Molina took office in January 2012. Perez wants to end 2013 with at least 30,000 officers and, from what I remember, wanted to increase the police by 10,000 during his four year term (33,500).

That's going to be tough especially if you actually want qualified people to fill the positions and the force continues to remove corrupt elements from its ranks. President Alvaro Colom added 6k or so officers during his four-year term but several thousand were also removed for corruption and other crimes during that time so it wasn't a net of 6k. We've had several arrests of police officers during Perez Molina's first year but no large-scale dismissals.

We often say that Guatemala needs more police and better-trained police. I still believe that's true.

Guatemala's police per capita of ~170 per 100,000, though, is still well below the UN recommendation of at least 222 per 100,000. The country will reach the recommended number, more or less, if they can get above 33,500 in 2015. It's not as if more police is a magic cure but I think that most of us would prefer police policing the streets rather than the military.

Approximately, 25 percent of this weekend's graduates (325) were women. 

Mike Allison is an associate professor in the Political Science Department and a member of the Latin American and Women's Studies Department at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.  You can follow his Central American Politics blog here.

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