GUATEMALA CITY — Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani landed in one of the world’s most violent cities with advice on how the government could fight crime that has helped fuel a surge in child migrants to the United States.
Speaking in Guatemala City, Giuliani said stronger law enforcement should trump social programs when trying to get spiraling crime rates under control. With a population of 14 million, Guatemala had about 17 homicides per day last year, compared with less than one per day for New York, population 8.4 million, over the same period.
“My top recommendation is to set up a system to measure the effectiveness of your police, your prosecutors and your prisons,” Giuliani, 70, said Wednesday at a forum sponsored by the not-for-profit Guatemalan Development Foundation. “That helps give you the right answers to questions like how many more police do you need. At what level should they be compensated so you can reduce the level of corruption.”
Along with El Salvador and Honduras, Guatemala forms part of Central America’s “northern triangle,” where street gangs with ties to Mexican drug cartels extort businesses and kidnap people for ransom, fueling the highest homicide rates in the world, according to the United Nations. That has prompted thousands of unaccompanied children from the region to trek toward the U.S., often led by smugglers, in the hopes of finding refuge.
Giuliani said he spent four months reviewing Guatemalan crime data and practices before visiting the country Wednesday. The country needs to strengthen prosecutors and boost its conviction rate for murders, which he said stood at 10 percent.
“When you have a tremendous amount of crime in your society, you are not going to solve it with schools, libraries, nice neighborhoods and sports teams,” Giuliani said. “You have to emphasize law enforcement. As soon you get the crime down, the next thing you do is build up the social programs. That’s when you create more jobs, better neighborhoods, better schools.”
As mayor from 1994-2001, Giuliani cut crime 63 percent and led the city through the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Current New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tapped Giuliani’s first police commissioner, William Bratton, to lead the force after taking office in January.
Giuliani’s speech marks the second time in a month he engaged with Central American politics. Last month, video game publisher Activision Blizzard Inc. hired Giuliani to defend itself from a lawsuit by former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. Noriega, in prison in Panama, objected to Activision’s use of his likeness in the game “Call of Duty: Black Ops II.” Giuliani called the lawsuit “absurd” and the company says it should be dismissed.
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