Authorities dismantle criminal group linked to Sinaloa Cartel in Guatemala

Guatemalan security and police forces captured thirteen people, including a Chief Commissioner and an Assistant Attorney for the Public Prosecutor (MP), on 18 December 2016 for the crimes of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, passive bribery, obstruction of justice, and abuse of authority (El Periodicio, Emisoras Unidas). According to El Periodico, the group, led by Mynor Fabricio Oajaca Quiroa, is part of an investigation implicating them in customs contraband as well as arms and drug trafficking. El Periodico linked the group to the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico and reported they orchestrated the arrival and departure of drug shipments along the Pacific Coast from the beaches of Mazatenango. Interior Minister Franciso Rivas said the group terrorized the western part of the country through drug trafficking, extortion, contract killings and kidnapping (El Periodico).

Uber arrives in Guatemala

After announcing plans in August 2016 to roll out operations in Guatemala, Uber began offering services in specific cities on 12 December 2016 (El Diario de Hoy). According to El Periodico, the company has at least 1,000 Guatemalan drivers in its fleet who have had to pass a series of checks, like submitting prior prison records, and registering with the tax administration. A spokesperson for Uber added that the company sees Latin America as the region for the most growth in 2017 (El Periodico).

Grupo Promerica buys Citibank Guatemala

Grupo Promerica bought CitiBank and CitiTarjetas Guatemala - although the deal excluded Citi’s Corporate Bank in Guatemala (La Prensa Grafica, 3 November 2016). Regarding the acquisition, Banpro Promerica CEO and Director Luis Rivas Anduray stated that the acquisition meant that Banpro Promerica would become the only commercial bank with a presence in all countries involved in the Central America – Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) (Estrategia y Negocios). Rivas Anduray added that the expansion helps the company become relevant for SMEs, which constitute a key growth enginge in the region. According to Rivas Anduray, the company will focus on consolidating and standardizing operations, after which they will focus on boosting mobile banking, electronic wallets, and PayPhone amongst other initiatives.The acquisition brings Banco Promerica's assets in Guatemala up to US$1.6 billion, with a portfolio comprising 313,000 clients (La Prensa Gráfica).

AgroEncuentro brings together rural producers with exporters

The 2016 AgroEncuentro Rural brought together 20 agro-export companies and 50 producers from the north, central and southwest regions of Guatemala (Terra, 11 November 2016). According to organizers, they expect the event to generate US$3.2 million in medium and short-term business (Terra). The Plataforma AGRITRADE of AGEXPORT has organized the event since 2013 and the Vice President Luis Teo noted that since then, there has been growth in agricultural sectors like vegetables throughout the rural areas (Perspectiva). AGRITRADE also holds an expo and conference in March 2017 in Antigua with more than 100 international buyers and 95 exhibitors.

Advances in Guatemala – El Salvador customs union

Foreign Trade and Integration Deputy Ministers Enrique Lacs, of Guatemala, and Luz Estrella Rodríguez, of El Salvador, met from 7 to 11 November 2016 in the fourth round of negotiations to discuss regulations on integrated controls and procedures for border posts between the two countries (Central America Data). Negotiation teams discussed customs, migration, security and health measures (El Economista). The Guatemala-El Salvador customs union represents part of a plan that came out of a June 2016 meeting of the Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana to move towards a regional customs union for Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Belize and Panama (El Economista).

Violence against journalists in Guatemala increases

Hamilton Hernández became the ninth journalist to be murdered in Guatemala in 2016 on 5 November 2016, when Hernández, who worked for Canal 5 television station, and his wife Ermelinda González were shot and killed on their motorcycle (Prensa Latina). On 4 November, Evelyn Blank from Centro Civitas declared the situation in Guatemala grave for journalists (Estrategia y Negocios). Centro Civitas documented four journalist assassinations in 2015. Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala (CICIG) head Iván Velásquez announced the United Nations' anti-gang unit opened investigations into the assassination of two journalists, but he declined to give more details (Estrategia y Negocios).

Guatemalan heavy transport strike effects economy

After a series of failed meetings with authorities from the municipality of Guatemala, heavy cargo truck drivers started a strike on 27 October 2016 to protest new restrictions governing hours these vehicles could move through the area (La Prensa). El Periodico reported that losses due to the strike could reach US$60 million. The municipality passed an agreement to limit the hours heavy transport trucks could pass through the city, and members of the Gremial de Transporte Pesado y Pilotos de Carga gave 24 hour notice that they would go on strike if the new restrictions were not overturned (Emisoras Unidas) However, Municipal Spokesman Carlos Sandoval reiterated the municipality’s decision to go ahead with the changes, in spite of union warnings. La Prensa reported over 20,000 trucks went on strike on 27 October 2016 and Sindicato de Transportistas Pesados de Guatemala Secretary General Rony Mendoza said the strike would continue until an agreement could be reached with the government.

Mexico signs migratory labor agreement with Northern Triangle

Mexico signed an agreement of understanding on labor cooperation with the Northern Triangle to allow temporary workers from the three countries to work in Mexico via the Programa Laboral Migratorio Temporal (La Tribuna, 15 October 2016). The agreement allows temporary workers from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to work in Mexico for no more than 180 days in the agriculture and service industries during high demand (El Universal). Mexicans can also work seasonally in these three countries and Mexican Labor Minister Alfonso Navarrete Prida commented that the memorandum represents a step toward instituting mechanisms for a regional solution to labor migration (La Tribuna).