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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

New govt of President Giammattei, inaugurated in Jan, continued anti-corruption drive and focused on security issues. In attempt to purge civil service of ghost jobs – salaries collected without work being performed – govt 10 Feb said census to verify extent of phenomenon was ongoing. Security also high on govt agenda; following Jan declaration of State of Prevention – allowing emergency measures aimed at fighting crime – in Mixco and San Juan Sacatepéquez cities, Giammattei announced further State of Prevention in cities of Chimaltenango 5 Feb and in Escuintla 14 Feb; authorities reported 76 people arrested in Chimaltenango by 10 Feb and at least 50 in Escuintla by 20 Feb. Congressional committee 4 Feb began examining bill to designate gangs as terrorist groups, part of Giammattei’s electoral pledge, however Human Rights Ombudsman previous day said it had yet to make sure bill does not violate human rights, while civil society group Diálogos 4 Feb criticised it for being applicable to many social groups. Congress 11 Feb passed controversial bill allowing authorities to sanction NGOs which disturb public order, sparking criticism from civil society, indigenous communities and U.S.; Giammattei 27 Feb signed bill into law. Amid regional concern on migration, govt 5 Feb signed agreement with UN to improve management of migration flows; govt late Jan said several annexes to July 2019 Asylum Cooperation Agreement with U.S. had not been signed, and procedures for receiving asylum seekers still had to be negotiated. Court in U.S. 11 Feb sentenced former presidential candidate Mario Estrada to fifteen years in prison for financing election campaign with drug-trafficking money.

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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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