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Guatemala: drugs, dollars and deterrence

Thursday, January 26, 2012


WHAT Newly inaugurated President Otto Pérez Molina is telling Washington that Guatemala needs American financial and technical support, if his country is effectively going to fight drug trafficking.

WHY Many tourists, along with foreign investors, are keeping away from Guatemala, because of violent crime, which is partly due to a big drug business. The result is a downward spiral of increased poverty, which in turn causes more violence. Meanwhile, Guatemalan public finances are a mess, which means Pérez has few if any resources to pay for more police powers.

WHAT NEXT Washington should be interested in Pérez plan, given its long-standing policy of trying to stop drugs before they reach the U.S. But even if America provides money, arms and military advisors, Guatemalan efforts to combat local drug lords will will need to be smart, fast and strong. Otherwise, Guatemala runs the risk of creating a copy of the Mexican conflict, in which civilian casualties are higher than they were before, while tourists and business people are less interested than ever in visiting or investing in the country.

For more information, please contact Esteban Alvarez at [email protected]