STEVEN DUDLEY. “Public security in private hands: the case of Guatemala’s Carlos Vielman.” Crime, Law and Social Change 69.1 (feb. 2018): 1-13.


This article is part of a special issue by Crime, Law and Social Change which aims at “rethinking organized crime, collective violence and insecurity in contemporary Latin America” by drawing from conceptual and methodological approaches in political science, criminology, sociology, social psychology, cultural studies and investigative journalism. Steven Dudley is the co-director and co-founder of Insight Crime and head of research for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, and is also a Senior Fellow at American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies. His contribution on Guatemala is one of five case studies of this special issue which addresses the puzzle of “why and how in the midst of the world’s most serious crime and violence crisis ‘stability’ and ‘political order’ are nonetheless maintained.” Dudley argues that “in the face of security challenges, elites seem more inclined to work within the framework of democracy than try to replace it. They address issues such as organized crime and violence in as much as they pose threats to their power, their businesses and themselves.”

 Crime, Law and Social Change 69.1 (feb. 2018): 1-13.Abstract: The following case study concerns the period in which Carlos Vielman, a well-heeled Guatemalan businessman from a prominent family, became the interior minister of the Óscar Berger administration. While minister, Vielman oversaw the creation of several special units that “acted as an organized crime group,” according to Guatemalan and international investigators. He, along with several of his police deputies were eventually charged for murder. He was later exonerated by a court in Spain, while others were prosecuted. This case study delves into that period, exploring how Vielman’s ministry represented an extension of the Guatemalan elite’s approach towards security and the government writ large to thwart rivals, regardless of the violent and criminal consequences.

Keywords: elites; organized crime; Guatemala; corruption; violence.