Exploring Avenues for Justice and Barriers to Accountability in Land and Environmental Conflicts in Guatemala


This research examines the interaction between international interventions and impunity, and the extent to which diverse aid initiatives have opened avenues for justice for indigenous communities, or reinforced barriers to accountability. My research at Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group has focused on understanding how global policies and transnational financial flows influence patterns of local violence, impunity, and conflict. My field research builds on these themes, and on desk research I conducted for my Master’s Thesis. While in Guatemala, I sought to build relationships for potential future partnerships and collaboration and to conduct scoping interviews with a range of actors including indigenous activists, NGOs, judges, and other public officials. While fruitful, I did encounter challenges, both related to Covid-19 – still affecting daily life in Guatemala – as well as in scheduling meetings with some US government entities. Results from scoping research suggest that understanding patterns of impunity will require analysis of the complex power structures that operate behind formal institutions, and the so-called ‘pacto de corruptos’ linking government officials to economic interests, high-level military officers, and illicit activities – all with vested interests in maintaining impunity, and some with strong linkages to international finance. These findings helped shape my research prospectus, strengthened partnerships, and laid the groundwork for future semi-structured interviews and for my dissertation research.

Kelsey Alford-Jones
Publication date: 
October 31, 2022
Publication type: 
Student Research