Guatemala President: Organized Crime Seeking to Destabilize Govt

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Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales says organized crime is trying to destabilize his government, but his comments call into question whether he fully grasps the threat posed by the country’s criminal networks.

Acknowledging that Guatemala has a “serious insecurity problem,” Morales pointed to recent bus bombings as evidence that his administration’s security efforts “have touched sensitive points” of organized crime, reported EFE.

“We are certain they are trying to destabilize the government,” Morales said, because “our criminal investigations are bearing fruit. And at the right moment we will be announcing our findings and making those responsible available to the courts.”

According to EFE, a bus bomb that detonated on March 6 left at least two dead and 15 injured. Morales said authorities have thwarted another four bomb attempts, reported Prensa Libre.

Morales made his comments during a press conference in the Pacific port of San José, where he inaugurated an anti-crime initiative for Holy Week. 

Accompanying Morales was Guatemala’s Interior Minister Francisco Rivas, who blamed recent violence on gang activity. The March 6 bus attack has been attributed to the Barrio 18 gang, reported Siglo21.

National Civil Police (Policía Nacional Civil – PNC) Director Nery Ramos added the recent violence is a natural reaction of criminal structures as they suffer setbacks at the hands of government forces.

Nonetheless Morales, who assumed office on January 14, said violent deaths in Guatemala fell to their lowest levels in eight years during February, according to elPeriódico.

InSight Crime Analysis

Morales’ claim that organized crime is seeking to destabilize his government is likely true. However, a range of criminal structures operate within Guatemala, with each posing a significant threat to the Guatemalan government and society.

Guatemala is plagued by criminal activity such as extortion and drug trafficking that is carried out by local street gangs and transnational criminal organizations, which drive much of the every-day violence and insecurity in the region. It appears Morales is referring to these criminal structures in his assertions that organized crime is seeking to destabilize the government.

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profiles

Yet there is another form of organized crime in Guatemala that is less visible but perhaps even more threatening to the stability of Morales’ administration. 

Morales rode a wave of popular discontent into office over high-profile corruption scandals involving Guatemalan political and economic elites. The most prominent of these is the “La Linea” customs fraud case, which resulted in the resignation and imprisonment of former President Otto Pérez Molina, who is also an ex-military general. Military-criminal networks stretch back decades in Guatemala, and are sometimes called the “hidden powers” of government.

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