While His Citizens Suffer, Guatemalan President Colom’s Administration Spawns Setbacks

Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom has recently declared that his country is in

a “state of calamity” due to a lack of food resources for hundreds of thousands

of Guatemalans. Attributing the situation to the severe drought and the

exacerbating effects of el Niño,

a weather phenomenon that has extended the normal dry spell and further reduced

agricultural production. As a result, Colom called upon the international

community for emergency aid to alleviate the disaster now in full effect.

However, contrary to the claims of the Guatemalan government, this emergency is

not entirely the product of unalterable weather patterns. The tenebrous

political, social, and economic history of the nation, combined with poor

leadership and a gross lack of accountability has directly led to the crisis.

The current situation is one of several disturbing events that have taken place

in Guatemala

in recent months, some of them under the leadership of its first left-leaning

president in 53 years. Facing charges ranging from corruption to murder, it is

well that Colom should be personally dispirited, as hopes for progress are

fading fast.

Colom’s at times feckless rule is not necessarily the only root problem

dragging the country down, although his administration has done little to alleviate

any of them. His presidency began in an already profoundly aching country. The

history of Guatemala is a tragic one, dominated by the legacy of a 36-year

civil war that left 200,000 people dead and approximately 40,000 missing and

unaccounted for. The country came out of the war severely divided, not only

between the wealthy and the poor, but also between the indigenous Mayan

communities and the ladinos

(those of mixed European and indigenous ancestry). Correctly seen as one of the

most corrupt and violent countries in Latin America, Guatemala is also one of the

poorest. Approximately half of its 13 million people live on $1 a day.

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This analysis was prepared

by COHA Research Associate Sophia Weeks

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