Guyana: Caribbean Terror

In early 2008, gunmen wielding AK-47 rifles started attacking villages in Guyana. Twenty three people died in a series of ambushes, including three police officers whose station was overrun and weapons stolen. The attacks are attributed to Rondell Rawlins, an escaped convict who had threatened violence if police didn't release his 18-year-old pregnant girlfriend.

Police deny they have her. Meanwhile, the hunt for Rawlins spreads throughout the Caribbean as Trinidad and Tobago loan officers and equipment to help in a search that has spilled over into neighboring Suriname. This violence didn't erupt in a vacuum. For years select officials in the government had been accused of funding and/or directing "phantom death squads" as a tool to fight a growing crime problem. But the poor neighborhoods where the squads allegedly operated, and where young men were dying, began to collectively feel besieged. Rawlins may be the blowback the government never saw coming.

Tristram Korten explores the limits of the state's power to battle crime in a region where resources are stretched thin, poverty is high and outlaws can create shadow governments every bit as powerful as the legitimate ones.

Where Phantoms Live

Vishal Singh paces nervously around his family's stucco home in Bartica, a town in northern Guyana overlooking the Essequibo River. A few months earlier, gunmen under cover of night had ambushed the community, an outpost for gold and diamond miners operating in the country's wild interior. The bandits robbed two gold trading stations, including one run by Singh's father in their home. The family survived by escaping to a fortified hiding place. Afterwards the Singhs fled town. Only Vishal has returned.

Gang's Terror Reign in Guyana Years in Making

GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- In a remote area of southern Guyana earlier this month, security forces tried to surround the country's most-wanted criminal and his gang of well-armed fugitives in their jungle hide-out. But after a fierce firefight, in which authorities say three police officers were wounded and one of the fugitives was killed, the gang escaped deeper into the bush to continue its fight another day.