10. Political and Security Environment
Guatemala has one of the highest violent crime rates in Latin America. According to the National Civil Police (PNC), the murder rate in 2018 was 22.4 per 100,000, making Guatemala one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Rule of law is lacking and the judicial system is weak, overworked, and inefficient. The police are understaffed and sometimes corrupt.
Given the weak rule of law, violent crime such as armed robbery and murder, is common. Gang activity, such as extortion, violent street crime, and narcotics trafficking, is widespread. Local police may lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents. Although security remains a widespread concern, foreigners are not usually singled out as targets of crime. Recent examples of violence include extrajudicial killings, illegal detentions, and property damage as a result of protests against some investment projects.
The main source of tension among indigenous communities, Guatemalan authorities, and private companies is the lack of prior consultation and alleged environmental damage. The UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported an increase in conflicts over the exploitation of natural resources in indigenous areas between 2012 and 2014. In more than a dozen incidents between 2012 and 2014, the government’s response was the declaration of a state of emergency, limiting certain constitutional rights in the conflicted areas.
Damage to projects or installations is rare. However, there was an instance in October 2018 in which unidentified arsonists burned machinery and other equipment at the site of a hydroelectric construction project near the northern border with Mexico.