The northward flow of undocumented migrants fleeing economic hardship and violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America exposes thousands of vulnerable people to mass victimisation. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – Third Update early warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to continue to pursue an approach grounded in supporting community violence prevention, institutional reform and poverty alleviation in the countries of origin while supporting transiting countries in managing the flow.
Country continued to see high levels of violence, including four simultaneous armed attacks in Guatemala City attributed to street-gang extortion 10 Nov left four employees or service providers of Spanish telecommunications company Telefónica dead and two wounded. Hundreds of protesters 7 Nov blocked country’s main highways, demanding resignation of President Morales and members of Congress who mid-Sept tried to modify criminal code to avert prosecutions on corruption and illegal financing charges. National University Student’s Association 16 Nov staged peaceful march through Guatemala City, calling for clean-up of Congress. With support of International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), courts made progress on multiple anti-corruption cases: 27 Oct sent to trial 28 suspects, including former President Otto Pérez Molina and former VP Roxana Baldetti, for participating in 2015 “La Línea” customs fraud case; 7 Nov lifted immunity of congressional deputy Julio Júarez to be investigated for alleged role in 2015 murder of two journalists; 4 Nov indicted deputy Roberto Kestler for corruption in justice system; and 3 Nov indicted seventeen municipal authorities for corruption in first major case in Western Highlands.
Central American gangs are responsible for brutal acts of violence, abuse of women and forced displacement of thousands. Governments must go beyond punitive measures and address the social and economic roots of gang culture, tackle extortion schemes and invest in communities.
Dramatic changes upended Guatemalan politics in 2015. Forcing the pace were international prosecutors, bolstered in their fight against corruption and impunity by a great wave of support from ordinary citizens. If Guatemala’s national reforms continue when outside help leaves, it can become a true role model for the region.
Ending bloodshed in this neglected border region requires more than task forces: credible institutions, access to state services and continuing security are also needed.
Ensuring a prompt and fair retrial of former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt is crucial to finally bringing justice to victims of the armed conflict and to reconciling a fragile democracy with its citizens.
The killing of protestors last October was a tragedy foretold by those who have long warned against Guatemala’s use of the armed forces to maintain domestic peace.
To stem the violence that kills thousands of Guatemalans each year, the government must find the resources and will to carry out long-stalled reforms of the national police.
A year after the election of would-be reformer Jimmy Morales as president, corruption investigations are casting a shadow over his inner circle. Recent appointments bring youth and oxygen to his faltering administration, but much still stands in the way of political renewal.
Originally published in Los Angeles Times
Originally published in Miami Herald
Originally published in Semana