TV comic-turned-politician Jimmy Morales used his inauguration speech to promise a crackdown on corruption, as he laid out to Guatemalans the core goals of his presidency.

Elected in October 2015 after mass anti-corruption protests swept former president Otto Pérez Molina out of power and into prison, Morales made financial crime the chief target of his inauguration speech on January 14. At a ceremony attended by US Vice President Joe Biden, Morales said that his government “will not tolerate corruption or theft,” adding: “woe to that man who wants to steal the people’s money because we will be swift and severe,” reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The new president promised “drastic” action against corruption officials, but was unclear about exactly how he will go about this and the country’s many other challenges, among them high poverty rates, dramatic social inequality and a declining, but still high, murder rate of 36 per 100,000 inhabitants. He instead spent much of his speech describing the daily challenges of Guatemalans in an appeal to the popular constituency that put him in office.

InSight Crime Analysis

Morales now faces the challenge of pushing ahead swiftly with reforms, building on the popular momentum of last year. A political novice, he will have to build difficult alliances with other parties to push through new anti-corruption measures. His National Convergence Front (Frente de Convergencia Nacional - FCN-Nación) is only the fifth ranked party, with just 11 of 158 seats in Congress.

As Telesur reported, FCO-Nación is also compromised by the alleged involvement of many of its military veteran founders and supporters – including key presidential adviser Edgar Justino Ovalle – in human rights violations during the country’s civil war. An estimated 245,000 people were killed or disappeared during this conflict, which lasted from 1960 to 1996. Ovalle is one of several individuals close to the party who have been directly implicated in some of the worst massacres of the conflict.

The United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG), which investigated the former president, will put pressure on Morales’ administration to bring those identified as perpetrators for these crimes to justice. Any failure to do so will run counter to his popular image and might spark protests.

And as InSight Crime has reported, with FCO-Nación compromised by its military connection, there is a real risk that some of the pernicious military criminal networks which originated in the civil war are left untouched, with Guatemala left in status quo. In this case, public patience for Morales, as with his predecessor, will not last long. It is hard to be optimistic that the extraordinary public demonstrations of last year, that brought down the previous president, will translate into a meaningful progress against organized crime and corruption.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

While there is no doubt that the FARC have only a tenuous control over some of their more remote fronts, there is no evidence of any overt dissident faction within the movement at the moment.

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

On May 27, 1964 up to one thousand Colombian soldiers, backed by fighter planes and helicopters, launched an assault against less than fifty guerrillas in the tiny community of Marquetalia. The aim of the operation was to stamp out once and for all the communist threat in...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

Ricardo Mauricio Menesses Orellana liked horses, and the Pasaquina rodeo was a great opportunity to enjoy a party. He was joined at the event -- which was taking place in the heart of territory controlled by El Salvador's most powerful drug transport group, the Perrones -- by the...

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 leader Carlos Lechuga Mojica, alias "El Viejo Lin," is one of the most prominent spokesmen for El Salvador's gang truce. InSight Crime co-director Steven Dudley spoke with Mojica in Cojutepeque prison in October 2012 about how the maras view the controversial peace process, which has...

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

In October 2012, the US Treasury Department designated the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a transnational criminal organization (TCO). While this assertion seems unfounded, there is one case that illustrates just why the US government is worried about the future.

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

When considering the possibilities that the FARC may break apart, the Ivan Rios Bloc is a helpful case study because it is perhaps the weakest of the FARC's divisions in terms of command and control, and therefore runs the highest risk of fragmentation and criminalization.

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

If we are to believe the Colombian government, the question is not if, but rather when, an end to 50 years of civil conflict will be reached. Yet the promise of President Juan Manuel Santos that peace can be achieved before the end of 2014 is simply...

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

The United States -- which through its antinarcotics, judicial and police attaches was very familiar with the routes used for smuggling, and especially those used for people trafficking and understood that those traffickers are often one and the same -- greeted the new government of Elias Antonio...