Guyana’s case, the images of the bodies of murdered victims flung onto the floors of police wagons, of the cadavers of seamen washed up on the foreshore or, as in the aftermath of the Bartica township massacre, stacked like animal carcasses in an open boat, no longer astonish. These images are a reflection of the real loss of respect by officials even for human remains. They suggest a cynical disregard for life.
A high murder rate could be an indicator, also, of the country’s cultural level. It could mean only that, as Guyanese, we are more likely than, say, the Japanese, to resolve conflicts by the resort to extreme violence. Human life has been cheapened and many crimes and conflicts conclude in murders. The question to be asked is whether there is growing acceptance of violent, criminal conduct that is claiming such large numbers of victims in such a small population? The United States Embassy in Georgetown, for good measure, continues to warn its citizens through its travel advisory that the murder rate in Guyana is three times that of the USA!
Miners have been robbed and killed by armed bandits in the vast hinterland west of the Essequibo River. Fishermen have been killed and tossed in the Atlantic by pirates along the coast. Wives, widows and women living alone in villages have become vulnerable victims of murder. Schoolgirls in isolated areas have been the prey of feral men and drunken rum-shop revellers. ‘Businessmen’ have been ‘executed’ by unidentifiable contract killers. Family homes have been set alight by vengeful spouses and partners. These are all distressing signs of social disintegration.
It is more than a coincidence that the rising tide of trafficking in illegal narcotics over the last decade brought waves of criminal violence to this country. Narco-trafficking, invariably, has been accompanied by gun-running. Firearms are imported illegally to support the expansion of drug empires and to conduct enforcement operations against rivals. The consequences have been that, over the past decade, Guyana earned a ghastly reputation for contract killings, executions, massacres and an above-average murder rate.
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