Guatemala Sustainability Issues

The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Guatemala:

1. Corruption

A UN commission that spent the last 12 years investigating graft in Guatemala has described the country as “captured” by corruption in its final report, days before it is set to wrap up operations after President Jimmy Morales refused to renew its mandate. The commission, known as  International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), said in its final report that there is a “mafia coalition” among members of government, the business community and private individuals that is “willing to sacrifice Guatemala’s present and future to guarantee impunity and preserve the status quo”.


2. Women and Girls’ Rights

In March 2017, 41 adolescent girls were killed in a fire in the Hogar Seguro government-run shelter. Fifty-six girls had been locked up for the night in a space that could safely hold only 11, without access to water or a restroom, following a protest against the poor living conditions and treatment received in the shelter—including reports of sexual violence stretching back years. After at least six hours in those conditions, one of the girls set a mattress on fire so guards would open the door—but they didn’t. Three public officials were due to stand trial in February 2019 for involuntary manslaughter and breach of duty, among other charges.


3. Poverty

Guatemala’s stability has not translated into growth acceleration to close the income gap with rich countries. In fact, poverty and inequality in the country are persistently high, and high rates of childhood stunting threaten Guatemala’s ability to reach its full development potential. Given the slow reduction in the poverty rate, the number of people living in poverty is projected to increase by more than 175,000 between 2019 and 2021.


4. Crime and violence

There is serious risk from crime in Guatemala City. Crime in Guatemala generally stems from widespread corruption, an inadequate justice system and the prevalence of both gang and narco activity across the country. No area in Guatemala is immune to crime, including the most popular tourist destinations. Violence and extortion by powerful criminal organizations remain serious problems in Guatemala. Journalists are targets of harassment and violence. 


5. Environmental Hazards

Guatemala is a geologically and climatologically active and dynamic country prone to seismic activity, volcanic eruptions, severe and unpredictable weather, and unstable terrain. Guatemala has three very active volcanoes: Pacaya, Santiaguito, and Fuego. Fuego Volcano, located about 25 miles southwest of Guatemala City, erupted in June 2018. As of October 2018, CONRED reported the eruptions of Fuego Volcano and subsequent pyroclastic flows and lahars have caused at least 188 deaths, left 240 people missing, temporarily displaced nearly 13,000, and impacted more than 1.7 million people. Flooding, mudslides, and landslides pose a major risk to urban and rural areas alike. Mudslides can easily overcome the poor road infrastructure. Drivers must exercise extreme caution and patience during these periods. Landslides and flooding have destroyed entire communities.