Over two years ago, we drafted a post
on Guatemala entitled, "Why doesn't anyone worry about Guatemala?"
Much has changes in two years. Now "we" are
worried about Guatemala, but is it too late?
At the time, the Guatemala Times hoisted a list
of important events related to the country's ongoing public security challenges. The list was detailed and helped readers get past the big news that today splashes down on the pages of CNN (once
) and other international media portals. The May Petén massacre and the following, recent murder of Argentine troubadour, Facundo Cabral, are just two of the most salient examples.
Election violence, then
in 2007, and now
in 2011 is another symptom of the deeper, structural level of flaws inside the Guatemalan democratic system.
A recent article
, "El tenebroso cartel de los 'Durmientes'," illuminated the historical presence of a de facto institution of corruption
, altogether different and more threatening than simply corruption in the institution. Just a quick review of this piece snaps into place the reality that everything we've observed during Colom's administration is only the latest chapter in a long tale of woe that has brought Guatemala to the brink of what at least one observer
has considered the region's best candidate for failed state status.
The same observer, we were pleased to see, drilled down on the reality of how a flurry of international donation plays out inside an institution of corruption. The mid-June meeting of political minds in Guatemala City ushered in hundreds of millions in pledged donations, but as the Brookings Institution pointed out
...Relatively modest pledges made in Guatemala suggest that the event's real value la in its political message, evidenced in the convergence of a remarkably broad group of nations and organizations all rallying in the name of an unprecedented regional effort ti improve the isthmus' dire security situation.
Bravo for us - all of us. Bottom line: in September, a new man will be calling the shots, and notably not a woman. Colom's x-wife Sandra Torres has all but been legally blackballed from the race. The front runner, General Otto Perez, sits on a 44% lead, which could place him as the clear winner, with more than 50% of the vote, after the first round of elections - campaign violence be damned.
Guatemala too, unfortunately. Perez, as a former military intelligence official, narrowly lost to Colom in 2007. The 2011 campaign is a carbon copy of his 2007 campaign. His focus on public security will collect votes, but implementation of these ideas will be a nightmare - again, the institution of corruption will present a Sisphian task. Apart from weak democratic institutions, there are new gremlins in the woods. In 2007, Guatemala's main concern was the MS-13. Today, it's arguably Los Zetas.
Make no mistake, if Perez assumes the position, he'll follow through with a militarization - far beyond Colom's brief, decorative
use of states of siege - that will dramatically rachet-up violence in Guatemala. After all, if Los Zetas are willing to take on the military in Mexico, they'll do the same in Guatemala.
From the perspective of pure intellectual curiosity, it will be interesting to see how far Guatemala goes down the line with its fight against Los Zetas, and others. Will the US be asked to bring trainers, drop boots on the ground (not likely), or something else we can't see right now? Could there be a "Plan Guatemala?" There should be, but there should have been.
It's almost too late for the US to worry about Guatemala. That should have happened at the end of the civil war in 1996, not today. Though there are silver linings
, we're concerned that when you mix an institution of corruption with hundreds of millions of international donations, a militaristic president, Los Zetas, and hundreds of millions of narco dollars the outcome can't be pleasant.