Guatemala’s Crossroads: Democratization of Violence and Second Chances

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Published by the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, December 2010.

From the executive summary:

The State of Guatemala is embarked in two wars. On the one hand, it’s fighting organized crime; on the
other, it’s at war with itself.


While significant portions of its resources are used to fight drug trafficking
and extortions, and an explosion of other organized crime activities, the State seems to be imploding from corruption and insufficient professional personnel in the public sector.

After a 36-year internal conflict, this stage in Guatemala’s history is often desceribed as the key time to
decipher the origin of the country’s current maladies. But the answer is not so clear cut. Security and
political analysts attribute the proliferation of organized crime to the Intelligence Structures and
Clandestine Security Apparatuses (CIACS, their acronym in Spanish) that were not dismantled after the
peace accords were signed. They also attribute it to scores of men left unemployed after the end of the
conflict, whose main skill was knowing how to fire a gun.

The origin of organized crime and the elements contributing to its growth are broad and complex.
Criminal structures can be seen as a three-legged stool, where the three legs are the local crime lords or
capos, foreign criminal networks, and local corrupt authorities—which, throughout history, have involved
civilians and the military. Some analysts trace the first signs of these structures back to the 1940s,
beginning with the strengthening of local criminal networks that worked with foreign contacts on a
regional level. Other origins are traced backed to contraband networks dating back to colonial times and
the 18th century…

Full Report. (pdf)

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