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

Deteriorated Situation

Violence against protesters opposing electoral interference after Bernardo Arévalo’s surprise victory left one dead.

Protests against judicial interference in electoral transition paralysed country. Amid continued efforts by Attorney General Consuelo Porras and Public Prosecutor’s Office to derail electoral transition, indigenous leaders, civil society and student organisations 2 Oct began protesting, establishing roadblocks throughout country and calling for resignation of Porras and other judicial officials; indigenous leaders called for nationwide strike. Blockages led to food and fuel shortages. Porras 9 Oct urged govt to act against “illegal” demonstrations and to clear roadblocks using force if necessary, while outgoing President Giammattei same day suggested protest leaders were receiving foreign funding. Riot police next day began clearing roadblocks and using tear gas. Interior Minister Napoleón Barrientos 16 Oct resigned after Porras requested his dismissal for not forcefully dispersing protests.

Unrest left one dead. In first casualty since protests began, unidentified gunmen 16 Oct killed one person and wounded two other protestors in Malacatan town, San Marcos department (west); videos on social media same day showed machete-carrying assailants attacking protesters in El Asintal township, Retalhuleu municipality (south west), allegedly in concert with police; Arévalo condemned violence.

International community reiterated its support for Arévalo. Arévalo 4 Oct restarted transition process, next day asked govt and demonstrators to engage in dialogue. Meanwhile, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 2 Oct called for “peaceful political transition”, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan 3 Oct promised to ensure accountability for “those who are trying to suffocate democracy”. Organization of American States head Luis Almagro 10 Oct described election interference as “shameful”. U.S. official 24 Oct said Washington could apply sectoral sanctions to “support democratic process”. U.S. and EU same day issued joint statement, expressing concern about “flagrant attempts to undermine” elections.

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