What happens in Guatemala matters far beyond its borders, argues Anita Isaacs, a professor of political science at Haverford College. The country is a test case in a region-wide battle against corruption. Reformers elsewhere are watching closely; if organized crime wins out, the illicit forces that govern much of Latin America will be buoyed. But if democracy succeeds, the region’s citizens will gain confidence, inspiration and know-how that can fuel their struggles to build the rule of law, she writes for The New York Times:
And there’s an even more fundamental challenge: It’s one thing to root out corruption; it’s another to create the functioning democratic and civil society that can inoculate a country against the disease. Guatemala is moving in the right direction, with growing numbers of citizens coming to understand that a democratic, equitable and just society is finally within reach. But to many, the government still seems incapable of decisive action; honest, enterprising Guatemalans don’t dare sign a government contract, and democracy activists hesitate to enter formal politics.
“The cost of failure in Guatemala would be enormous,” Isaacs suggests. “Not only would democracy in that country be imperiled, but the prospects for reform across the region would suffer a dire setback.”