Guatemala: Land of Eternal Spring
By: Saleen Freire
Officially known as the Republic of Guatemala, the nation has a population of 15.8 million and comprises the largest population in Central America. Guatemala is bordered by Honduras and Mexico, with the Pacific Ocean as its coast. The nation gained its independence from Spain in 1821 and its capital is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción or better known as Guatemala City. Today, Guatemala faces the issue of gang violence and corruption within the justice system, a rising deforestation rate and lastly, an abuse of military power by its government.
Central America is notorious for its corruption and gang violence but in the years leading up to 2030, change has sparked as citizens and even officials grew tired of the countries oppression by powerful criminal organizations. In the past, cartels turned Guatemala’s streets into war zones as they constantly fought other gangs for territory and power. Using money and intimidation, they easily persuaded countless political figures and members of the justice system to follow their political agenda. It was not until 2012, that change began to seem possible. With the appointment of Claudia Paz y Paz as Attorney General, she brought change and hope to the failing justice system. Before her arrival the prosecution rate was less than 2% and the murder rate was 40 with a reported 6000 homicides. Along with Paz, the UN also demonstrated their fight against corruption with the foundation of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala. This has promoted a positive change as the crime rate went down to 9% before again dropping another 30% a decade later. During Paz’s time as Attorney General, change was also seen in the trail system. At the start of her career as Attorney General, she had trouble prosecuting officials who get postponing trail dates by months and years. To fix this issue, she implemented a new system that only called for trail postponements if it met certain conditions and was only allowed to have a max postponement of 6 months. Central America’s infestation of drugs and gangs will still remain as the product will always be in demand. Recognizing this, the new Attorney General now wants to crack down on the root cause of any remaining corruption, focusing on the destruction of fields harvesting drugs and the trafficking of narcotics.
Perhaps Guatemala’s most significant issue is the quickly shrinking rain forest and deforestation of mass amounts of hectares of land. For many years, Guatemala has relied on wood as a source of energy and economy as it was a product in the international trade market. Many companies and industries are responsible for the destruction of the forest as they profited and gained finical wealth. From 1990 to 2010 the rate of deforestation had doubled from 1.7% to 3% or 40,000 hectares to 80,000 hectares of land being deforested every year. Now, in 2030 this number once again has almost doubled with around 130,000 to 150,000 hectares being deforested annually. This has caused a number of environmental issues such as soil erosion and the threatened extinction of several animals such as green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle, olive ridley turtle, spectacled caiman, American crocodile, and Morelet's crocodile. However, soil erosion seems to be the bigger issue as it is also affecting the locals who live in Guatemala’s rural areas. Poor and faced with no other options these locals are often farmers who live off the land. With soil erosion crippling their agricultural yield, many farmers struggle to survive as they no longer sell as much product. Already struggling to survive on a low income and a low amount of food sources, the United Nations has also reported that deforestation has caused environmental contamination that kills many Guatemalans with respiratory and digestive illness. With a starving population hungry for food and money, the environmental issues created by deforestation have caused a huge problem for Guatemala’s government. Perhaps now with only 30% of the rain forests left, Guatemala will now strongly enforce its conservation of land asking for aid from several nations to create protection programs for the deteriorating environment. Previously environmental organizations tried to warn the Government of this outcome, but money and funding for the protection of the environment was not prioritized.
The use of military in Guatemala has been abused throughout Guatemala's history until a stop was put to it in 2019. Under former president Perez Molina several state of emergencies were called up, deploying military personal to assist police within Guatemalan cities. The use of military has been intended for positive change as its main objective was to fight organized crime. However, the use of the army for public relations gained attention on the international community as it was labeled a humans rights abuse. By issuing state of emergencies basic rights were taken away. In 2013, a state of a emergency was again called upon by President Molina, issuing military personal to assist police with protests blocking the Totonicapan highway. As tension increased, soldiers opened fire on protesters killing 6 protesters and wounding another 30. Displeased with the violation of human rights, pressure was put on President Molina by both the international community and Guatemalan citizens. Issuing a statement President Molina declared that he would draft a legislative proposal clarifying the role of military in public security operations. With no proposal ever submitted to congress it wasn’t long before Guatemala's use of military committed another humans rights violation 2017. Resembling an authoritarian power that used intimidation to control its people, Molina’s use of military would no longer be tolerated by the international community as they warned of coming sanctions. Finally, Molina cleared up the role of military and submitted a legislative proposal to congress were it was passed in 2019. From then on the use of military was clear for any Guatemalan President and military use for public relations has greatly reduced by 2030.
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