Oct 11, 2011

Guatemala: Challenges and Hope

The bloody eruption of Mexican-led cartels into Guatemala is the latest chapter in a vicious cycle of violence and institutional failure. Geography has placed the country – midway between Colombia and the U.S. – at one of the world’s busiest intersections for illegal drugs. Cocaine (and now ingredients for synthetic drugs) flows in by air, land and sea and from there into Mexico en route to the U.S. Cool highlands are an ideal climate for poppy cultivation. Weapons, given lenient gun laws and a long history of arms smuggling, are plentiful. An impoverished, underemployed population is a ready source of recruits. The winner of November’s presidential election will need to address endemic social and economic inequities while confronting the violence and corruption associated with drug trafficking. Decisive support from the international community is needed to assure these challenges do not overwhelm a democracy still recovering from decades of political violence and military rule.
There are signs of progress. An activist attorney general, Claudia Paz y Paz, is reviving long-stalled investigations into past human rights abuse while aggressively pursuing the current threat posed by organised crime. A veteran human rights activist, Helen Mack, was tapped by the outgoing government to reform the police. The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a unique joint initiative by the UN and the Guatemalan government, is pursuing high-profile cases.
The advise for the new President
“Guatemala’s next president not only has to go after individual drug lords but also provide the police, prosecutors and judges with the resources, training and protection they need to do their jobs and protect its citizens”.
From a new report from International Crisis Group. (HT: Pedro Romero).

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