We welcome back the Latin America Bureau (LAB) from their short absence and they have a website which is well worth a visit for all things Latin America. Two reports on Guatemala were highlighted recently on their website by Javier Farje which are worth spending a little time over.
Squeezed between Crime and Impunity is a new report by the International Crisis Group which says that in Guatemala crime has replaced political violence. In the report, a history of Guatemala is provided by way of context and the report is not shy in stating truths about the white elites who have made a point of exploiting the country and its people since the 16th century. These elites ‘sought to maintain long-established patterns of control of the means of economic production at the expense of the majority of the population’. These same elites ‘have sought to keep the state weak in terms of its ability to exert control over their wealth’. The economic elite have a total ‘disinterest in reforming legal structures that protect its interests’ and ‘the pattern whereby the government serves as a tool to advance private interests rather than the public good has been hard to break’.
Unfortunately these mentions of elite interests are not dealt with in a more direct way. While the paper gives a list of those things the Guatemala government should do in order to achieve lasting results, and while it does mention that the country has the lowest tax base in Latin America (9.9% as against 14.5% average in Latin America), the report fails to link the two.
The report does provide an interesting analysis into the ‘gang’ killings of bus drivers in the capital, linking them to the government’s unwillingness to regulate the transport sector. It also highlights failings in carrying out reforms agreed as part of the peace accords in 1996. Critics of the International Crisis Group might point to the makeup of the organisation and its being itself representative of elite interests, albeit on a global scale. This report states that this is the first report of a series examining Guatemala and it is to be hoped that the next reports will tackle the elite interests’ stranglehold on the State apparatus.
You can read it for yourself here.
Of absolutely no coincidence with the failure to regulate transport in Guatemala, is an interesting fact coming out of the second report on the LAB website, titled Neo-Liberalism, the Mesoamerica Project and Corporate Power, and their Link to Human Rights Abuses in Guatemala, authored by Christopher Moye – a much more interesting read. The Mesoamerica Project is an agreement signed by the Central American countries, and Colombia and Mexico, with the aim to entice foreign investment as a means to attain globally competitive development and the author argues that a new "development" project in the region will lead to abuses and poverty.
The sector with by far the most financing happens to be transport.
The neo-liberal project that is the Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) appears to provide the Mesoamerica Project with its ideological basis. Because of this, Guatemala can expect to see an increased loss in its food sovereignty and security – shockingly, it seems that almost 100% of wheat flour is now imported from overseas. Labour rights and those of affected communities can also be expected to be further stripped away and worse, as can be seen in the murders of FRENA activists. Thinking about the recent post on an article by Jorge Murga Armas, a pattern seems to be emerging where the neo-liberal agenda is the basis for all so-called development in Guatemala – a development that continues to redistribute wealth from the poor to the rich.
This report is available here.