Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

A Plan of Action for Guatemala

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on May 19, 2011

by Eric Farnsworth for Americas Society/Council of the Americas, May 18th, 2011.

Guatemala is in crisis. According to U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), drug gangs have penetrated “every facet of life.” Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Johnson told the Council of the Americas in October that criminals have compromised control of the borders with Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras, usurping one of the most basic functions of any government. Ricardo Stein, who helped broker peace in the long-running civil war, says Guatemala is now “a paradise for criminals.”

The 1996 peace accords were an opportunity to put aside the terrible history of conflict and darkness that had enveloped the Guatemalan people for generations. Under vibrant and forward-looking leadership that enjoyed the support of the peo­ple as well as the goodwill and resources of the international community, Guatemala was poised, as Central America’s largest economy, to write a new chapter focused on democratic governance, economic development, and social inclusion. Serving in the White House at the time, I was part of the delegation that traveled to Guatemala City for the signing of the peace accords. The excitement was palpable, with citizens from across the country converging for a massive celebration lasting long into the night. Even more telling was a trip the next day to a camp of demobilized guerrillas, many of them children, who looked less demoralized than disoriented, facing the reality that they would need to re-integrate into society with little more than an understanding of how to shoot a rifle or plan an ambush. Here the enormity of the task became apparent. Without a focus on education, training, and rebuilding—or in some cases creating—the institutions of democracy, Guatemala faced an uncertain future. In some ways, the accords were the beginning, rather than the end; the job of building a society was now at hand.  (continue reading… )

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