Guatemala has quickly become new territory for Latin American drug cartels, specifically the Sinaloa drug cartel. These new cartels have begun to have a considerable impact on the freedom within the Guatemalan government due to corruption. Politicians had previously been protected by the United Nation’s International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). The CICIG had made tremendous progress on increased transparency, and their fight against illegitimate actors within the nation.
The war and violence associated with drug trafficking in Guatemala have reached all the way into the highest levels of the government. Following the 1990s, Guatemala was seeing its democracy grow following years of civil rights violations and civil war. The government’s growth was quickly struck by the influence of drug cartels within the nation. The amount of money these groups are bringing into the country allows cartels to influence politicians’ interests financially. This money has given them power and money to be able to control politicians through money and fear.
In 2019 the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) was terminated by the president at the time, Jimmy Morales. This commission was initially designed to combat organized crime and criminal groups’ influence in state politics. Criminal groups had a stranglehold in Guatemala following the civil war, which ended in 1996 after decades of conflict between the government and left-wing militia groups (M. Guatemala had been cleaning up its democracy, but by terminating the CICIG, their government showed a lack of interest in stopping corruption at the highest levels.
The country does indeed offer relatively free elections. Though the elections may be ‘free,’ the government’s weakness does not offer Guatemala much promise for fighting drug cartels within their borders. Illegitimate funders are giving politicians the funds they need to run campaigns and win reelections. This government weakness is due to the fear politicians face from these illegitimate funders and the crime they are funded through. The CICIG was backed by the United Nations and offered citizens greater transparency into Guatemala’s government.
The CICIG provided the country with counter-corruption elements they do not currently have. Fear rules over Guatemala and its politicians. Freedom House reports, “Since its (CICIG) departure, judges, prosecutors, and civil society actors have been threatened with reprisal for their support of CICIG’s work.” If the nation’s judges and other actors are being threatened over their support of good in their country, then it is easy to imagine how they’re being threatened and influenced.
Jimmy Morales, the presidential election following the scandals of the previous Guatemalan president who had been arrested in 2015 for corruption exposed by the CICIG. Jimmy Morales began being investigated himself by the CICIG in 2017 for corruption of his own. Morales and the accusations made were eventually dismissed, but Morales started his mission to dismantle the commission. By 2019, the CICIG’s renewal date, Morales declared it would not be continued. The CICIG had made serious progress in the country, but Morales knew that it would end his political profession.
By terminating the CICIG, Guatemala is even more vulnerable than before. The nation is flooded with illegal activity and trafficking, and the government does not have the strength, funding, or support for the war on corruption. Their democracy is beginning to backslide following the termination in 2019. The CICIG had made significant progress by uncovering corruption involving traffickers, politicians, judges, and police units. The CICIG was in place to prevent corruption and help Guatemala recover from the nation’s rough periods at the end of the 20th century. Jimmy Morales made a selfish choice to get rid of the commission because he was under the impression that the organization would likely keep pursuing stories about his life.
Guatemala is a nation with a history of violence caused by its multi-decade civil war. This long civil war resulted in Guatemala being a relatively new democracy in Latin America. Following the 1990s, the country made efforts to become more democratic, and there had been hopes of democracy prevailing in the country. But there is very little institutionalized pressure for drug cartels and criminals. This lack of pressure is likely to revert Guatemala into a nation with high rates of crime and corruption. Guatemala has shown that they are weak democratically in the past. Though Guatemala had made significant steps, the termination of the CICIG seems like it will potentially doom an already fragile democracy.