Guatemala Enters A State Of Siege After Military Murders

This past week, the Guatemalan government called for a national state emergency after the murder of three military personnel. Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales suspects these murders are by drug traffickers attempting to pass through towards Mexico and eventually to the U.S.. The state of emergency suspends the rights of assembly, transit, and the right to carry arms while also suspending constitutional guarantees including the freedom of movement and assembly over the next 30 days. Hundreds of Guatemalan soldiers are currently being deployed between the Honduran and Mexican borders in hopes of improving safety and ending these problematic drug routes.

This siege has brought massive Guatemalan disapproval and protest from ordinary citizens and civil rights groups alike. Much of the siege affects eastern Guatemalan regions, predominantly inhabited by indigenous communities, like the Maya Q’eqchi’. Covering such a vast majority of Guatemala’s territory, this siege allows them to change military structuring while also increasing military influence in these areas. Many feel as though this state of emergency aligns perfectly with the objectives of the Guatemalan government in these most recent years; a push to infringe and abuse on indigenous communities. A Guatemalan social movement group named, ‘The Campesino Unity Community’ has remained on the frontline of the protests and remains sceptical of government ulterior motives. Their coordinator Daniel Pascual shared in fear, “We think that is one of their objectives…The situation is gradually becoming clearer.”

Many minority indigenous communities have begun to worry due to this siege, as they were already feeling the push of government onto their lifestyles. I do see the potential of Guatemalan government using this siege, and suspension of constitutional guarantees and citizens rights, to pressure these already vulnerable communities into mandated mining and land exploitation. Guatemalan citizen engagement and a continuous push to hold their government accountable are crucial, in hopes that they use this siege productively; to combat the massive drug trafficking throughout their country. 

Guatemala is notorious for its well-traversed route for drug traffickers, along with neighbouring countries like El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico. Colombia and Peru produce around 80-90% of the worlds cocaine use, fueled through mass coca plantations and a lack of government resources needed to enforce regulation. The Drug Enforcement Agency has estimated that Colombia produces $400 million worth of cocaine each week. With the U.S. being the world’s leading consumer of cocaine, Guatemala sits between a complex and dangerous producer-consumer relationship. 

Guatemala has been active in asking for global assistance in combating this problem, especially from the U.S.. Both the Guatemalan Defense and Governance Minister have expressed the need for helicopters, boats, vehicles, and communication equipment in order for optimal effectiveness of the operations by the 131-member Guatemalan special forces. Their hopes have been to appeal to President Trump’s presidential cornerstone, a fierce stance against the drug trafficking coming from the South. Trump has continuously held the financial aid the U.S. gives to many Central American countries, including Guatemala, over their head as a form of condemnation against the migrants fleeing from their country. Without outside aid and resources, Guatemala is unable to combat a violent drug trafficking problem of these extremes, as they have frequently said themselves.

As we enter the one week mark of the national state of emergency, Guatemala’s continuance of military action comes with a continuance of citizen backlash. The fleeting mass of troops ordered to the border does little to nothing to solve the real cause of their violence and instability. Single-handedly at fault is the sale and production of cocaine between the U.S. and Colombia/Peru, which unfortunately involves Guatemala by geographical default. Though Guatemala can do little without exterior aid, their government remains cognisant of the problem that dooms their country. With the U.S. continuing to pull aid out from under them, Guatemala remains at a loss and unable to change their position. The U.S.’s lack of assistance to many struggling Central and Southern American countries, despite U.S. causation of much of their affliction, reflects a shortcoming within our government that unfortunately affects many around us. Moving forward, I hope Guatemala uses this siege productively and within the law in order to keep Guatemalans safe and their rights regarded.