The growing number of private security firms in Guatemala speaks to the state’s inability to provide protection for its citizens, but this booming industry is vulnerable to criminal co-option and could generate security concerns of its own.
Guatemala now has over 200 private security firms and 150,000 security guards — five times more than the country’s 30,000-strong police force, according to the BBC. Less than 100 of the firms are legally registered.
These private services have flourished in the country as a result of public distrust in state institutions such as the police, security expert for the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) Adriana Beltran told the BBC. Heads of private security companies say the demand for these services continues to grow.
Businesses and individuals pay fees of $545 a month to keep a security guard on site, and $1,500 a month for personal bodyguards. Seguridad Integral, a private security firm founded in 1990, charges up to $26,000 to provide security at events. Other services include hiring patrol cars to accompany product deliveries at a price of $2 per kilometer.
One security firm owner told the BBC that in the 1990s, his clients felt that the greatest threat to them was kidnapping. Security concerns have evolved with time, however, and recent years have seen a surge in extortion.
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