A new poll shows that recent corruption scandals in Guatemala appear to have damaged the credibility of the country's armed forces and political elites, while an internationally supported anti-corruption commission has become the country's most-trusted institution.
Although the military still ranks among the most-trusted institutions in Guatemalan society, it has lost ground in recent years due to corruption scandals involving current and former members of the armed forces, according to a Prensa Libre article based on a poll the news outlet commissioned.
Fifty percent of Guatemalans expressed confidence in the military, the poll found. That figure represents a drop of more than 10 percent since 2014, when a survey (pdf) by Vanderbilt University's Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) found that 61 percent of Guatemalans expressed confidence in the armed forces. (See Prensa Libre's graphic below)
Prensa Libre links the decline to the series of corruption scandals exposed with the help of the United Nations-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG).
Revelations of widespread corruption led to the resignation and criminal prosecution of former Guatemalan president Otto Pérez Molina, the first military general to occupy the office since the country returned to democratic rule in the mid-1980s. CICIG has accused Pérez Molina, along with his vice-president Roxana Baldetti, of leading a "criminal mafia structure that had co-opted power through the ballot box in Guatemala."
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Two men who served as defense minister under Pérez Molina, Manuel López Ambrosio and Ulises Anzueto, have been arrested in connection with the anticorruption investigations, as has former Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla, who is also veteran of the armed forces.
Moreover, a former military officer has been described as Guatemala's biggest drug trafficker. Marlon Francesco Monroy Meoño, alias "El Fantasma" (The Ghost), who was recently arrested, reportedly used his military contacts to facilitate his drug trafficking activities.
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The Prensa Libre poll also shows that the justice system, political parties, members of congress and the presidency have all seen dramatic declines in public confidence in recent years. Compared to the 2014 LAPOP survey, confidence in the justice system fell 17 points, from 43 to 25 percent. Confidence in political parties declined 19 points, from 32 to 13 percent. Congress and the presidency both lost more than 30 points, falling from 42 to 12 percent and from 48 to 11 percent respectively.
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It is interesting to note, however, that CICIG -- which in many ways serves as the public face of Guatemala's ongoing efforts to combat corruption -- ranks more highly than any other institution included in Prensa Libre's survey. It even ranks more highly than the Catholic and Evangelical churches. And somewhat ironically, the scandals the commission helped expose are likely part of the reason for the marked decline in confidence in many other public institutions.
CICIG has indeed made significant progress in terms of bringing to justice top officials accused of corruption. But as InSight Crime has previously pointed out, the corruption that has undermined confidence in Guatemala's public institutions has its roots in social and political structures. Enacting reforms to deal with these structural issues will require sustaining the momentum for change that CICIG has helped to generate.