Main menu

Guatemala 2014 Blog: Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla and Panel on Development and Security

From L to r: Luis Pellecer, Vanessa Rubio, Juan Carlos Zapata, and Fernando Bolaños. (Image: José Pablo Martínez)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Speakers:

  • Mauricio López Bonilla, Minister of the Interior, Guatemala (keynote speaker)
  • Luis Pellecer, Journalist, Grupo Albavisión (moderator)
  • Juan Carlos Zapata, Executive Director, FUNDESA
  • Fernando Bolaños, CEO, AgroAmerica
  • Vanessa Rubio, Undersecretary for Latin America and the Caribbean, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Mexico

Guatemala's Interior Mauricio López Bonilla opened a discussion on one of Guatemala's major issues—security—by going beyond crime statistics. He talked about the government's efforts to strenghen institutions and rule of law while making changes to police forces and border security policies.

Bonilla commented on Guatemala's decentralization of police forces and its increase from 25,000 to 35,000 police, with the goal to have 250 security agents per 100,000 people. He highlighted the government's focus on community, saying the country needs "local police who know the geography, families, the language, and local culture." Through decentralization, the government created nine regions for police to administer 33 districts in the country.

The ministry also talked about border security and Guatemala's "strategic geographic position" when fighting narcotrafficking and human trafficking. He spoke about the importance of a regional plan and bilateral policies, giving the example of Guatemala's cooperation with Mexican intelligence and border authorities. Bonilla also mentioned better communication among security agencies because of a "technology revolution," which allows security forces to monitor specific areas with a history of crime.

During the discussion, Mexico's Undersecretary for Latin America and the Caribbean Vanessa Rubio discussed the partnership between Guatemala and Mexico, noting that "the countries are experiencing their best moment in the bilateral relationship," building joint goals for the region. She explained that bilateral trade increased 350 percent in the last decade acress a 621-mile-long border. "It's important to increase crossing points in the border...and improve infrastructure to make crossings more efficient," she said.

She noted that regional integration has a role to play in bringing prosperity to the country and mentioned that Mexico's recent constitutional reforms put the country in a better position to contribute to infrastructure improvements in Guatemala and Central America as a whole.

Fundesa's Juan Carlos Zapata talked about recent public-private partnerships in the country. He noted that between 2009 and 2013, homicides dropped from 46 to 34 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. He highlighted programs modeled after initiatives in Colombia that offer training to youth and reduce delinquency, underscoring the need to invest in social policies and institutions to improve security.

AgroAmerica's Fernanado Bolaños spoke about inequalities between urban and rural areas of Guatemala and the need to increase state presence and resources in rural areas. Bolaños said more investment and resources must reach rural communities to create development and jobs in new areas. He named Peru as an example in decentralizing tax structures to develop infrastructure and boost economic growth in rural areas.

Watch the video: