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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

Govt’s anti-corruption drive continued while Constitutional Court overturned NGO decree that sparked concern over democratic backsliding. Court 2 March sentenced former president of Congress Pedro Muadi to 30 years in prison for heading criminal structure which handed out ghost jobs – salaries collected without work being performed; same day, court found 30 people, mostly former Congressional staff, guilty of using ghost jobs to launder money. President Giammattei 11 March said legal proceedings against companies over fiscal issues was “stupid persecution”, raising concern about his determination to pursue anti-corruption efforts. Constitutional Court (CC) 3 March ruled govt’s Feb decree allowing authorities to shut down NGOs on ground of disturbing public order as unconstitutional citing threats to human rights. Giammattei next day said bill would come into effect regardless of ruling but backed down 6 March after CC reiterated suspension of law and 9 March said he would present amendments in upcoming weeks so decree can enter into force. Amid regional concern over migration, govt 6 March said talks were ongoing with U.S. over implementation of July 2019 Asylum Cooperation Agreement signed by previous govt, which allows U.S. to transfer asylum seekers to Guatemala so they can apply there, including over responsibility for transfer costs. Guatemalan Institute for Migration 6 March said 823 people had arrived through scheme since Nov, with sixteen formally requesting asylum in Guatemala; govt 17 March blocked deportation flights from U.S. to prevent spread of COVID-19, after declaring state of emergency and closing borders for two weeks 16 March, but 19 March resumed reception of flights carrying Guatemalan deportees. Govt late March extended state of emergency and related curfew until 12 April.

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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

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