Corruption Fuels a Feedback Loop in Guatemala

Oct 9, 2019 | 10:00 GMT

This photo shows Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales speaking to reporters during a news conference in Guatemala City on Aug. 14, 2019.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, pictured speaking during an Aug. 14 news conference in Guatemala City, signed a 'safe third-country' agreement with the United States in July. Guatemala is considered far from safe for migrants, nor is it considered capable of managing migration flows.



  • After strong opposition by the current Guatemalan government, the U.N. Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala left the country in September after 12 years of investigating corruption.
  • Given its weak institutions, Guatemala's "safe third country" agreement with the United States will likely add to the region's instability.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump's threats to punish Guatemala over migrant flows to the United States will only increase the country's institutional weaknesses if they are made a reality.

The political and social situation in Guatemala is key to Central America's stability. With stronger institutions and relatively less violence than Honduras and El Salvador, Guatemala is usually where U.S. operations of assistance in the Northern Triangle begin. This assistance doesn't mean, however, that Guatemala is a peaceful land of consolidated institutions. In fact, some Guatemalan indicators of human development, corruption and violence are comparable with some of the world's most turbulent countries. For instance, child malnutrition in Guatemala reaches half of the population below 5 years of age, a situation comparable with Yemen or Burundi. But when compared with Honduras and El Salvador, the two other countries that constitute Central America's Northern Triangle, Guatemala usually provides the best location for diplomatic operations in the region, where corruption, extreme poverty and violence remain sources of social and political unrest....

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