The Economist has another post on Edging back from the brink: A potential “failed state” is clawing its way back to something like normality. Edging back from the brink doesn't scream "Wow things are great" but I think that the text of the article was a bit more generous than it should have been. Some of the comments sure believed that the reporter was too optimistic. As other stories are generally too negative, I can't condemn an article for being just the slightest bit optimistic.
It's tough to describe what is happening in Guatemala in a way that everyone accepts.
For me, 2008, 2009, and into 2010 were really tough years. Escalating murder rates. Protesters sought to remove the president for his alleged role in the murder of Rosenberg that turned out to be a suicide. Appointments of allegedly corrupt officials. It was also shortly after the Zetas entered the country and drug cartel violence escalated. Regionally, Zelaya was overthrown in Honduras and there were threats of a coup in El Salvador. Saying that there have been improvements since then even though times remain rough hasn't been a popular characterization of events here.
Why not? Well, even with three years of declining murder rates, Guatemala remains one of the most dangerous countries in the Western Hemisphere in which to live. That's not a myth. National and international media are telling the people that the country is falling apart. Perez Molina campaigned while saying that 25 people were murdered each day - about ten deaths higher than the police were reporting. Prosecution rates are still pretty abysmal even though they have improved. The same goes for the number of crimes investigated.
For many, better than it was isn't good enough.
Here are a few more stories.
Romina Ruiz-Goiriena has a story on Claudia Paz y Paz for Al Jazeera. I hope that Guatemala's first female attorney general isn't the only person behind the new emphasis on prosecuting crimes. We need some stories on how much Guatemala's institutions have really changed.
CABI has a list of pretty safe municipalities. See also the links at the bottom. While Guatemala is not nearly as big as Mexico, it's still a country with a lot of variation across and within departments - some more, some less violent. Growing up in New York City, I don't think that I met a person from Buffalo until graduate school - you get the idea. See also Insight's take on Carlos and Claudia's graphic representation of murder.
President Perez reaffirmed his government's commitment to battling organized crime as well. Four police have been killed in recent days. I would be on the look out for signs of extrajudicial killings. Arrests and prosecutions rather than an increasing number of young male victims would be an indication that some things have changed.