Thursday, August 20, 2009

Smile, though your heart is aching

Áxel Danilo Ramírez Espinoza, alias el Smiley, is periodically Guatemala's most wanted man.

He tends to spend the rest of the time locked up, but they let him out every so often so that he can kill a few more people. Back to jail he then goes; he is after all not that hard to spot in a crowd. Smiley's a member of the Mara 18 in case you hadn't noticed.

I watched an interview conducted with Smiley the last time he was detained. "I don't just kill anybody," he explained. "Only the ones who get on my tats — que me chingan — and they'd be dead soon enough anyway." So, no big deal.

Bus drivers are a particular speciality
and it would appear that Smiley's entire family (teenage relatives included) are involved in his killing trade because just two days ago we watched them all sitting in a makeshift dock in a shabby tribunal room doing "whatevaaar" faces as a judge ticked them off without making a great deal of eye contact.

They were all wearing kevlar vests that were just a couple of sizes too big in court. Hardly surprising, observed V, given the number of people who will have been stimulated to 'clean' them as a result of this TV exposure. Maybe Smiley should stay in there this time.

According to PNC stats, there have been 2548 murders so far this year in Guatemala (with an additional 3011 people wounded by firearms) and 12,428 robberies.

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