In an opinion piece in the Global Post, Mark Schneider argues that the Guatemalan state is in danger of collapsing. This is how he begins:
While U.S. attention has rightly been focused on Mexico’s drug wars – with high-profile trips by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before this weekend’s Summit of the Americas – Mexico’s southern neighbor is in far more serious danger of becoming a failed state. Reeling from gangs, corruption and pervasive poverty, Guatemala now faces well-armed, well-financed drug cartels.
Narco traffickers and organized criminals dominate an estimated 40 percent of the country, from the Mexican border to the Caribbean coast, as well as in the little-populated Mayan jungle and forest preserves of the Peten. Opium poppy fields grow freely. The major threat, though, comes from more than $10 billion in cocaine passing through Guatemala each year, with a tenth of the money laundered in the country and used to bribe officials.
The drug lords and their friends have become the self-ordained local governments and police, either directly or by buying off others. The Sinaloa Cartel, which has run cocaine trafficking in Guatemala for the past several years, is pitted against the Gulf Cartel newcomers. Their “Zetas” (paid assassins) are ratcheting up violence that inevitably hits “civilians.” Last year there were more than 6,200 homicides reported in Guatemala.
Schneider paints a bleek picture. Can this be reversed?