Poverty and violent crime continue to plague Guatemala 25 years after its last left-wing guerrillas laid down their arms. More than half the population lives on less than $4 per day. Youth are particularly vulnerable to predatory street gangs. After spiking in 2009, crime rates fell due partly to investigations by a UN-sponsored commission, but the government terminated that body’s mandate early in response to a series of corruption probes, imperilling efforts to curb impunity. Thousands of Guatemalans risk being robbed or assaulted on migratory routes. In its research and advocacy, Crisis Group encourages holistic reform and crime-fighting approaches that get at the root causes of insecurity.

CrisisWatch Guatemala

Unchanged Situation

In polls marred by controversy over banned candidates and violence, voters sent surprise contestant from centre-left and early frontrunner into August presidential runoff.

Tensions ran high in lead up to polls that produced no clear winner. Guatemalans 25 June cast ballots to choose new president and vice president, as well as 160 congressional deputies and hundreds of local mayors. In surprise presidential result, centre-left Bernardo Arévalo finished second with 12% of vote; he will face frontrunner Sandra Torres of Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza party, who won 15% of vote, in 20 Aug runoff. Tensions ran high ahead of elections amid widespread perception that political and business elites manipulated judicial system to bar politicians who could threaten their interests from running for office; judicial authorities prevented more than 1,200 candidates for president, vice president, mayor and congress from running. EU election monitoring mission 25 June said elections took place amid “serious deterioration of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, together with severe restrictions on freedoms of expression and of the press”.

Election-related violence spiked. Cabal Party presidential candidate Edmond Mulet 14 June said shooting took place at party headquarters in El Tejar town, Chimaltenango department (centre), and that six Cabal leaders had been murdered since June 2022. Unidentified gunmen 17 June killed National Unity of Hope party candidate Erlindo Rodriguez Samayoa in Concepción las Minas municipality, Chiquimula department (east). Think-tank Diálogos 21 June reported 15 people involved in election campaigns – including drivers and volunteers – were killed Jan-June 2023, while observer NGO 25 June reported 57 incidents of electoral violence.

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