Global Insider: Guatemala Security Reform Shows Mixed Results Under Pérez Molina

Global Insider: Guatemala Security Reform Shows Mixed Results Under Pérez Molina

Mexican drug cartels have made inroads in Guatemala, a fact highlighted last month by initial reports, ultimately false, that one of Mexico’s most wanted drug traffickers had been killed there. In an email interview, Christine Zaino, program associate in the Latin America program at the Wilson Center, and Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin America program, discussed Guatemala’s role in the drug trade and recent security reforms.

WPR: How has Guatemala's security situation changed since Otto Pérez Molina became president?

Christine Zaino and Cynthia Arnson: Pérez Molina’s first year as president has shown mixed results; the country continues to struggle with deep-rooted problems of poverty, weak and corrupt institutions and high rates of violence. The good news is that Guatemala’s homicide rate is decreasing -- down from nearly 39 per 100,000 in 2011 to 34.5 per 100,000 in 2012, according to the U.N. -- but it is still one of the world’s highest. The government has launched an ambitious effort to reform security institutions: More than 200 members of the police have been purged, and there are programs to improve training and vetting procedures. But resource constraints and continued involvement of the military in police operations -- tragically revealed in the October 2012 murder of six indigenous activists and the wounding of more than 30 others in the town of Totonicapán -- show that there is still a long way to go. Meanwhile, Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz continues to provide courageous leadership in human rights investigations and prosecutions and the effort to break up criminal networks.

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