Guatemala:"50/50 chance of becoming a failed State" -FIU-SOUTHCOM

Guatemala Strategic Culture Report-June 2010 (Click for pdf version of full report), by Edward F. Fischer, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt University (where LAPOP and USAID fund the Americas Barometer program, which recently issued an absurdly golpista report masquerading as scholarship). See my comments on the El Salvador report: here too, it is what is not being said (in particular about U.S. responsibility for extreme state violence and genocide) that is perhaps more important than what is being said, and is what makes this bad scholarship. Note that wingnut Norman Bailey also participated in this workshop and is cited repeatedly as an expert.
Quotes culled by Jenny Grubbs

The country’s proximity to the US shapes its view of foreign policy, and has made it a major center of drug trafficking, which threatens the State’s monopoly on the use of force. Page 4

The rise of non-State actors creates a situation of instability in Guatemalan Strategic Culture, with little sense of direction, continuity, or control over strategy making at the State level. P.5

Political parties are too fragmented and too corrupt to point toward a long-term strategic direction. P. 5

In Brazil, for example, we find an even greater diversity, and yet the formal institutions of the State and major non-State actors are strong, established, and resilient enough to make it possible to speak of a clear strategic direction. This is not so in Guatemala, where State institutions are weak and largely distrusted. P. 7

Guatemala is the gateway to Central America, and Guatemalan Strategic Culture is based on the notion that the State acts as a gatekeeper and conduit for US-Central American geopolitical relations. P. 10

Political parties are too fragmented and too corrupt to point toward a long-term strategic direction. P. 11

Guatemala may be characterized as a "neo-colonial State," reproducing traditional colonial relations between the elite and the masses, and between indigenous and non- indigenous peoples through democratically legitimated, albeit corrupt, institutions.8 p. 13

To understand Guatemala, one has to understand ethnic relations there; this is a social fact that colors almost everything else. Like Bolivia, Guatemala struggles with how to create a more unified society in light of a profound legacy of colonial relations…. For most elites, it is no longer "polite" to be racist in overt ways. P. 15

There are deep pro-American sentiments, although these are mixed with deep ambivalences and anti-American sentiments as well, especially following the 1954 coup. Azpuru observes that US influence can be seen economically (the largest trading partner by far is the US; there is a preponderance of US firms operating there), politically, and culturally. P. 17

Guatemala is marked by a culture of impunity, and some people are seen as above the law. This ties into the great distance between elites and the masses (the elites being rightly seen as largely operating with impunity), and feeds the culture of violence. P. 18

Yet these same elites also show a pragmatic, often ruthless, manipulation of markets and regulation along familial, social, and political-economic ties to protect and retain market positions. Their attitude toward taxes is exemplary: seeing taxes as simply feeding the corruption of the State, with many claiming that they would gladly pay higher taxes if they could trust the government to be good stewards of their money. P. 21

There is a still a small, well-recognized ruling elite of families tied by blood and marriage relations. Indeed, as Norman Bailey argues, it would be hard to underestimate he importance of blood, family, and social ties that cut across political and ideological lines, and that still make major decisions for the country over the dinner table. P. 22

Without security, people don’t care much about anything else. And there is little sense of personal security in Guatemala right now. P. 27

LAPOP surveys in 2008 in Guatemala reported that support for democracy stands at 60.5% (only Honduras is lower in Latin America); political tolerance is 43.6% (only above Bolivia); the perception of corruption is 80.4% (only below Jamaica and Argentina). P. 28

Marvin Astrada argues that violence has long been a central feature of Guatemala. The State has been driven to seek absolute power at any cost, including the repression of all other competitors. The military was fused with the State, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, and promoted the idea that power can only be preserved through absolutist security. P. 28

Some argue that Guatemala, like Haiti, is approaching a failed State. Norman Bailey gives it 50/50 chance of becoming a failed State, noting that if a state cannot provide security and law to a population, then it is not a functioning state. In this context, it is difficult to create a foreign policy or coherent Strategic Culture. P. 31

LAPOP reports that 40% of Guatemalans would support a coup for security reasons.20 Thus, there could be a popularly supported coup in Guatemala. P. 32