Guatemala's Strong-arm Leader Ignores Anti-corruption Campaign
Criminals Win, Country Suffers
November 12 2018
Here, on Antigua de Guatemala’s cobblestone streets, mother and daughter rest after a long day selling their wares. The Spanish colonial town, indeed a World Heritage Site with carefully restored buildings awash in rich earthen hues, seems like a movie set dropped into Guatemala’s landscape of dirt-poor villages and ramshackle towns. This, Central America’s most populous country, suffers from widespread hunger; over half of newborns to five-year-olds are malnourished. School is a luxury or simply out of reach for most youth; only 40 percent attend, leaving the majority of Guatemalans illiterate. Desperate parents dispatch young children to work any way they can, and a lawless society awaits them. It’s not just the treacherous gangs, but corroded policemen, soldiers, and courts—the very services that are meant to protect—that are the most threatening.
With U.S. help, Guatemala’s crackdown on epic corruption has exposed the kind of government collusion with narcotics traffickers, money launderers, and cartels that landed the last presidente in jail, and put the current one in the crosshairs. Now, with tacit U.S. help, Presidente Jimmy Morales races to shutdown the investigations, while brazenly defending his right to rule the country as an empire of organized crime. Convincing Washington to reverse its history of support for battling corruption, Morales has curried the favor of President Trump and even chased him to Israel, where Guatemala was one of a handful of nations to support the US embassy’s move to Jerusalem. Morales simply expects impunity. His party: the military elite’s FCN-Nación, whose top members now dodge prosecution for systematic and savage killing during the nation’s long civil war.
With violence unchecked, fearful Guatemalans continue to move north for safety. For those remaining, local and international aid groups put a premium on education and training for women and girls, the leading indicator for economic growth in developing countries, and especially for those sitting on decades of killing, sexual violence, and trauma. In this harsh machismo culture, indigent parents marry off pre-pubescent daughters to older men. Girls bear children at high risk to their own bodies and those of newborns. They care for large families well before they have learned to care for themselves. And the cycle continues.
Explore more about the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala here. Want to help rural and remote areas, where the needs are great, the access is poor, and the multiplier effect is strong? Save the Children fights hunger with strategic livestock and farm production, reading and financial literacy initiatives, and clean water and hygiene projects. Mutlicolores targets Mayan communities deep in the mountains, teaching rughooking, developing cooperatives, and creating female entrepreneurs. Wings reaches across the majority indigenous communities to teach men, women, and children family planning and maternal health.
As part of the effort to recover Guatemala from years of corruption and violence, Mercado Global offers pathways for women to learn tangible and transferrable skills, empowering their individual economic value. Learn more about their work here.