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Prosecutors' Dismal Record Showing Improvement in Guatemala
Date:4/24/2008

WASHINGTON, April 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Homicide prosecutions are up significantly in Guatemala thanks to USAID's efforts to train prosecutors to solve murders. With 1,000 cases last year alone in Guatemala City, the nation's capital -- the prolific slayings drew Congressional attention and worldwide publicity when killings of women were going unsolved.

Femicides, as they're called, make up to 12 percent of Guatemala's homicides, but attract attention because of their brutality, including torture and sexual assault.

Under the program, the Public Ministry (the equivalent of the U.S. District Attorney) began emphasizing resolving murders, for example, so prosecutors could work cases for 72 hours, the critical period for solving homicides.

"At the end of the day, the prosecutor would just go home," whether or not the case was solved, said Jose Garzon, who manages USAID's democracy programs in that country.

"The system had credibility issues," said Garzon. "The homicide unit brought about five percent of all cases and even fewer led to convictions. To have credibility, you need to get well into the double digits." Murder rates in Guatemala are among the world's highest.

By contrast, nearly 63 percent of the homicides committed in the United States in large cities get solved, Department of Justice figures show.

After a year, the program is showing results. Prosecutions went from 57 in 2006 to 122 in 2007 and are now about 200 per year. Femicide prosecutions more than tripled from six in 2006 to 22 in 2007. USAID is expanding this program to other cities as well as working to protect witnesses and support victims.

For more information on USAID and its justice programs in Guatemala visit http://www.usaid.gov.

The American people, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, have provided economic and humanitarian assistance world
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SOURCE U.S. Agency for International Development
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