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Social researchers continue to grasp for critical factors that foster or impede the development of social capital. This article highlights some of these factors based on an investigation of a low-income urban settlement in Guatemala. Community activists and leaders, elected representatives, regional government service providers, local residents, NGO directors and staff, and other key informants living and working within the designated locality indicated a complex and diverse range of social, cultural, political, and economic issues that contributed to low levels of ‘broad-based’ social capital. Long-standing fears related to violence and corruption within a historically top-down authoritarian state were the most significant factors impeding social capital, social organising, and civic participation. Northern-led service-providing NGOs in the area also curbed ‘broad-based’ social capital by fostering dependency through intervention strategies that were external, top down, non-participatory, and not community based.

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