Poverty and violent crime continue to plague Guatemala 25 years after its last left-wing guerrillas laid down their arms. More than half the population lives on less than $4 per day. Youth are particularly vulnerable to predatory street gangs. After spiking in 2009, crime rates fell due partly to investigations by a UN-sponsored commission, but the government terminated that body’s mandate early in response to a series of corruption probes, imperilling efforts to curb impunity. Thousands of Guatemalans risk being robbed or assaulted on migratory routes. In its research and advocacy, Crisis Group encourages holistic reform and crime-fighting approaches that get at the root causes of insecurity.

CrisisWatch Guatemala

Improved Situation

Country saw transfer of power as planned, with Bernardo Arévalo assuming presidency after months of tireless efforts to block August election result and turbulent inauguration. 

Arévalo assumed office after last-ditch attempt by opposition to stall proceedings. Following months of relentless attempts to overturn election result, Bernardo Arévalo and Karin Herrera 15 Jan were sworn in as President and VP. Inauguration started nine hours later than scheduled after outgoing Congress 14 Jan tried to stall swearing in of new members of legislature; it also decided that, due to ongoing legal cases, incoming deputies from Arévalo’s Movimento Semilla party would be considered “independent”, leading to confrontations among lawmakers. Legislative body eventually sworn in after hours of delays, however, with Semilla’s Samuel Pérez selected as President of Congress; Pérez immediately reinstated deputies into party, while Arévalo was sworn in to presidency. Thousands of supporters celebrated in capital Guatemala City as Arévalo thanked Ancestral Authorities for leadership during transition; Indigenous leaders ended 106-day-long strike. Constitutional Court next day invalidated election of Congress’ leadership and in new vote 19 Jan Partido Azul’s Nery Abilio was elected its president. 

International community signalled support for Arévalo. Representatives from countries across the world attended swearing in ceremony, including heads of state from Colombia, Honduras, Chile and Paraguay, exerting pressure on Congress to allow transfer of power. Following inauguration, U.S. aid agency chief Samantha Powers 15 Jan announced $6mn for program to develop rural areas while U.S. State Department 17 Jan sanctioned former President Giammattei for corruption. EU High Representative Josep Borrel 16 Jan announced €50mn investment to support Indigenous communities and cooperation with Arévalo administration on strengthening democracy, and combating climate change and corruption.

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