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Guatemala

Poverty and violent crime continue to plague Guatemala over twenty 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 have fallen due partly to a UN-sponsored investigative commission. But the government has terminated that body’s mandate early in response to a series of corruption probes, imperilling the fight against criminal 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

Unchanged Situation

President Giammattei dismissed health minister over allegations of mismanagement of COVID-19 crisis, while tensions with U.S. persisted over deportation of migrants. Giammattei 19 June replaced health minister and three other Ministry officials; move followed investigation by Presidential Commission against Corruption into Ministry’s alleged mismanagement of COVID-19 pandemic, including creation of ghost jobs – salaries collected without work being performed – and hiring of unqualified people, and newspaper Prensa Libre’s 6 June accusation that Ministry had manipulated numbers of reported COVID-19 infections and deaths. Meanwhile, police reported they had arrested 24,800 people for violating COVID-19 lockdown 22 March-13 June. Amid concerns over potential spread of virus in overcrowded prisons, director of prison system 16 June said eight prisoners had died from COVID-19. Police 2 June reported improving security with 978 homicides Jan-May 2020, compared to 1,515 in same period last year. Criminal violence and local conflicts however continued. Notably, alleged smugglers 4 June set up roadblocks and attacked police precinct in San Marcos city (west). Violence also persisted in Sololá department (south), where govt imposed state of emergency in three municipalities late May following deadly clashes over longstanding territorial dispute; after renewed clashes there 11 June left two dead, govt 25 June extended state of emergency for 30 days. Tensions with U.S. remained high over continued deportation flights amid COVID-19 pandemic and despite broader restrictions on international flights. U.S. under-secretary of state 5 June stated flights would continue; authorities reported 159 deportations 1-15 June; govt 23 June reported six new deportees tested positive for COVID-19.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

13 Feb 2018
Guatemala struggles to adhere to the rule of law. Criminal actors have ways of influencing government decisions that do not produce good conditions for investment or for economic activity in general. Global Finance

Arturo Matute

Former Analyst, Guatemala

Latest Updates

Deportation and Disease: Central America’s COVID-19 Dilemmas

As the coronavirus spreads, and the U.S. presidential election looms, the Trump administration and Mexican government continue to deport migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Some deportees are carrying the virus. Central American states should press their northern neighbours for more stringent health measures.

Also available in Español

Mafia of the Poor: Gang Violence and Extortion in Central America

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.

Also available in Español

Guatemala: Young Blood, Old Vices

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.

Also available in Español

Crutch to Catalyst? The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala

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.

Also available in Español