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  HOME | Caribbean

Poverty, Violence and Migration, Challenges for Guatemala’s Next Leader

GUATEMALA CITY – The fight against poverty, which affects more than half the population, violence and migration will be the predominant challenges for Alejandro Giammattei when he takes on Guatemala’s presidency from 2020-24.

In Guatemala, widely-considered one of the most economically disparate country’s in the world, some 59.3 percent of the population suffer the effects of poverty, a driving factor in the mass migration toward the United States.

Almost half of all children under five suffer chronic malnutrition. The average salary in the Central American nation hovers around $388 a month and are unable to keep up with rising food prices.

The Central American Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that the top one percent of earners in Guatemala take in as much as the poorest 40 percent, who face huge inequality when it comes to healthcare, drinking water and electricity, especially among indigenous communities.

The fight against violence in the nation is another challenge for the president-elect, who will replace Jimmy Morales on January 14. Targeting violence has been one of Morales’ main policies.

According to some human rights groups, such as the Mutual Support Group (Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo, GAM), homicide rates have fallen under Morales but Guatemala still has the unenviable label of being on the most dangerous countries in the region, alongside El Salvador and Honduras.

There were 4,778 recorded homicides in 2015, according to Guatemala’s statistical office. In 2018, that number had dropped to 3,885.

Despite the decrease in crime levels, thousands of Guatemalans every year set off in search of better fortunes in the United States.

Several caravans of migrants from El Salvador and Honduras have also passed through the country toward the US border.

Jordan Rodas, a lawyer and currently the country’s procurator for human rights, said Giammattei would have to concentrate on malnutrition currently “lacerating” the country.

Meanwhile, Javier Zepeda, executive director of the country’s industrial forum, said that boosting employment as a way to counter-violence.

Giammattei, a conservative, took around 59 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election while his center-left rival, Sandra Torres, took 41 percent.

 

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