Guatemala City is one of the most dangerous places in the world. Less than 15 out of 5,000 murders result in a conviction. A culture of political repression and intimidation has left people reluctant to trust the judiciary. But - with the help of C.S.I training - an elite group of officers hope to change things. We follow the special homicide task force as they process up to 30 killings a night. We also hear from the killers and victims, who risk all to seek justice.
An angry mob chases a suspected criminal. As they catch up with him, someone douses him with petrol and sets him on fire. With violent crime rates soaring, Guatemalans have little confidence in the police. All over the country, communities are dispensing their own brutal brand of justice.
"The level of violence here is unbelievable ... I think I've just come into a war zone," confides Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer Tim Sleigh. Nearby, people crowd around the body of a woman who's been shot eight times. According to Richard Matte another RCMP team member, "The scene is badly secured, people should have been restricted", he complains. Then, Cal Deedman B.C. Crown Counsel notices a bullet casing in the middle of the road, outside the area that was cordoned off. "People have been standing on top of evidence".
Guatemala's police are overwhelmed by a constant stream of gang violence and killings. "These people go to as many homicides a night as I go to burglaries", states Tim Sleigh. "They're trying to do their absolute best
"Young men simply disappear or are found dead the next day", explains one man.
with the limited resources they have". Police powers are restricted because they're associated with previous military regimes. To arrest someone, police must catch the murderer in the act or convince a judge to issue a warrant.
The struggle against criminals in Guatemala is not just a police story. Victims like 16 year Rosita risk their lives to secure a prosecution. "He grabbed my hair, put a knife to my throat and dragged me down a narrow alley", she sobs. After her attacker raped her, he threw her in front of an approaching truck. But Rosita's ordeal was not over. When she went to the police, her rapist's wife tracked her down. "She said if I didn't get her husband out of jail, she would kill me".
If convicted, Rosita's attacker will probably be sent to a place like Pavon. It's more like a small village than a prison. Behind its barred gates, Inmates chat to each other in outdoor cafes or pick up groceries from the corner shop. "If they have money, prisoners can open a store", states Jorge Batres from the Prisoner Committee. In contrast, Rosita's family now survive on the charity of their neighbours after her mother lost her job for taking
time off to care for her.
But there are signs things are improving. The C.S.I officers trained by the RCMP team have passed on their skills to 400 colleagues. More and more crime scenes are yielding court admissible forensic evidence. But winning public support for the judiciary will depend on results. As a prosecutor, Byron Duran accepts; "We have to start again from zero in regaining that trust".
|Duel with the Devil
Directors, Writers and Camera
STEVEN HUNT is the executive producer of Sound Development Communications Media. He has 20 years of experience in journalism and international development. His productions have
appeared on CBC, Vision TV, and National Public Radio and in the Christian Science Monitor. Steven has worked in Latin America and Africa on broadcast and communications projects. He has also worked for organizations specializing in international and social issues. Steven has director credits include Searching for Balance for Vision-TV. His editing and camera credit includes Seeds in the City and the Duelling with the Devil.
FRED YACKMAN has worked as a writer, journalist and broadcaster in radio and television for nearly twenty-five years. He was the recipient of the 1998 CTV Fellowship - Banff International Television Festival. Fred has also served on the National Council of the Writers Guild of Canada for the last twelve years and currently is Vice-President.
His credits include winner of the Docu-Drama Category for the International Law Enforcement Association Awards for, What About Me about Victim Impact Statements produced for the
Alberta Solicitor General's Dept. He was also the writer and creator of Celebrity Graves - Travel Channel, Discovery U.S.A. and the writer of nine episodes of the documentary series The Things We Do For Love on the Life Network.