WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

(AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

6 Oct 2022 | Publication

Guatemala’s Downward Spiral


With the support of the international community, Guatemala was making progress in strengthening the rule of law. Today, rule of law in Guatemala is on a dramatic downward spiral. A handful of corrupt political, military, and economic elites seeking to maintain their privileges at the expense of Guatemala’s Indigenous majority population have captured the state. They have systematically dismantled anti-corruption mechanisms such as UN-led CICIG and the special anti-corruption prosecutors’ office and infiltrated the justice system, starting at the top. Independent media, human rights defenders, and Indigenous leaders have been targeted and civic space restricted. Corruption is pervasive, depriving the population of access to basic public services, and few independent actors remain able to confront it. U.S. policy is also undermined. The United States needs to consider a range of policy tools to counter such a broad challenge to basic democratic values in Guatemala.

This report, produced by Washington Office on Latin America, Latin America Working Group, and Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA, summarizes the ways in which corrupt elites have captured the State from the closing of the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity (CICIG) to the current co-optation of the justice sector system, and identifies the actors behind the attacks on those fighting for justice and future threats to democracy in Guatemala. 


To read the other reports in this series, click the following links:

Under Assault in Guatemala: Journalists and Indigenous and Human Rights Activists

When the Dominoes Fall: Co-optation of the Justice System in Guatemala