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Guatemala

GUATEMALA

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
TOPOGRAPHY
CLIMATE
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENVIRONMENT
POPULATION
MIGRATION
ETHNIC GROUPS
LANGUAGES
RELIGIONS
TRANSPORTATION
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL PARTIES
LOCAL GOVERNMENT
JUDICIAL SYSTEM
ARMED FORCES
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
ECONOMY
INCOME
LABOR
AGRICULTURE
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
FISHING
FORESTRY
MINING
ENERGY AND POWER
INDUSTRY
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
DOMESTIC TRADE
FOREIGN TRADE
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
INSURANCE
PUBLIC FINANCE
TAXATION
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HEALTH
HOUSING
EDUCATION
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
MEDIA
ORGANIZATIONS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
FAMOUS GUATEMALANS
DEPENDENCIES
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Republic of Guatemala
República de Guatemala

CAPITAL: Guatemala City

FLAG: The national flag consists of a white vertical stripe between two blue vertical stripes with the coat of arms centered in the white band.

ANTHEM: Himno Nacional, beginning "Guatemala feliz" ("Happy Guatemala").

MONETARY UNIT: The quetzal (q) is a paper currency of 100 centavos. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, and 25 centavos, and notes of 50 centavos and 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 quetzales. q1 = $0.13072 (or $1 = q7.65) as of 2005. US notes are widely accepted.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard, but some imperial and old Spanish units also are used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Epiphany, 6 January; Labor Day, 1 May; Anniversary of the Revolution of 1871, 30 June; Independence Day, 15 September; Columbus Day, 12 October; Revolution Day, 20 October; All Saints' Day, 1 November; Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.

TIME: 6 am = noon GMT.

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT

Situated in Central America, Guatemala has an area of 108,890 sq km (42,043 sq mi), with a maximum length of 457 km (284 mi) nnwsse and a maximum width of 428 km (266 mi) enewsw. Comparatively, the area occupied by Guatemala is slightly smaller than the state of Tennessee. It is bounded on the e by Belize, Amatique Bay, and the Caribbean Sea, on the se by Honduras and El Salvador, on the s by the Pacific Ocean, and on the w and n by Mexico, with a total boundary length of 2,087 km (1,297 mi).

Guatemala has long laid claim to territory held by Belize (formerly known as British Honduras). In 1821, upon achieving independence, Guatemala considered itself the rightful inheritor of this former Spanish possession and continued to regard Belize as an administrative adjunct of Guatemala. In 1859, British rights to the area were defined in a treaty with Guatemala, but, alleging that the United Kingdom had not fulfilled its obligations, Guatemala subsequently refused to recognize the British title. In mid-1975, Guatemala demanded the cession of one-fourth of the territory of Belize as a condition for recognizing that country's sovereignty.

When Belize did become independent in September 1981, Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation. In January 1983, the Guatemalan government announced that it would drop its sovereignty claim and would press instead for the cession of the southernmost fifth of Belize's territory. Guatemala's claim has been rejected not only by the United Kingdom and Belize but also by the UN General Assembly and, in November 1982, at the CARI-COM heads of government conference. In mid-1986, Guatemala and the United Kingdom reestablished consular and commercial relations.

Guatemala's capital city, Guatemala City, is located in the south central part of the country.

TOPOGRAPHY

A tropical plain averaging 48 km (30 mi) in width parallels the Pacific Ocean. From it, a piedmont region rises to altitudes from 90 to 1,370 m (300 to 4,500 ft). Above this region lies nearly two-thirds of the country, in an area stretching northwest and south-west and containing volcanic mountains, the highest of which is Mt. Tajumulco (4,211 m/13,816 ft). The larger towns and Lake Atitlán are located in basins at elevations of about 1,500 to 2,400 m (5,000 to 8,000 ft). To the north of the volcanic belt lie the continental divide and, still farther north, the Atlantic lowlands. Three deep river valleysthe Motagua, the Polochic, and the Sarstúnform the Caribbean lowlands and banana plantation area. North of it, occupying part of the peninsula of Yucatán, is the lowland forest of Petén, once the home of the Mayas. The largest lakes are Izabal, Petén Itza, and Atitlán.

Near the boundaries of the Cocos and Caribbean plates, Guatemala is in a geologically active region with frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity. Of some 30 volcanoes in Guatemala, six have erupted or been otherwise active in recent years. A catastrophic earthquake in February 1976 left nearly 23,000 dead, 70,000 injured, and 1 million people whose homes were partially or completely destroyed.

CLIMATE

Temperature varies with altitude. The average annual temperature on the coast ranges from 25 to 30°c (77 to 86°f); in the central highlands the average is 20°c (68°f), and in the higher mountains 15°c (59°f). In Guatemala City, the average January minimum is 11°c (52°f) and the maximum 23°c (73°f); the average minimum and maximum temperatures in July are, respectively, 16°c (61°f) and 26°c (79°f). The rainy season extends from May to October inland and to December along the coast, and the dry season from November (or January) to April. Because of its consistently temperate climate, Guatemala has been called the "Land of Eternal Spring."

On 4 October 2005, Hurricane Stan, a Category 1 hurricane, struck Guatemala's Pacific coastal region, sending winds of 128 km/h (80 mi/h) along the coast below Guatemala City. The disaster caused landslides and mudslides, which destroyed many towns. Villages near the popular tourist area of Lake Atitlán suffered damage. Almost 1,000 died and hundreds lost their homes.

FLORA AND FAUNA

Flowers of the temperate zone are found in great numbers. Of particular interest is the orchid family, which includes the white nun (monja blanca), the national flower. There is also an abundance of medicinal, industrial, and fibrous plants. Overall, there are more than 8,600 plant species throughout the country.

Indigenous fauna includes the armadillo, bear, coyote, deer, fox, jaguar, monkey, puma, tapir, and manatee. The national bird is the highland quetzal, the symbol of love of liberty, which reputedly dies in captivity. Lake Atitlán is the only place in the world where a rare flightless waterbird, the Atitlán (giant pied-billed) grebe, is found; this species, classified as endangered, has been protected by law since 1970. There are more than 900 other species of native and migratory birds. Reptiles, present in more than 204 species, include the bushmaster, fer-de-lance, water moccasin, and iguana.

ENVIRONMENT

Guatemala's main environmental problems are deforestationover 50% of the nation's forests have been destroyed since 1890and consequent soil erosion. As recently as 1993, the nation obtained 90% of its energy from wood, losing 40,00060,000 hectares of forest per year. Between 1965 and 1990, Guatemala also lost over 30% of its mangrove area, which totaled 16,000 hectares in the early 1990. From 19902000 the rate of deforestation was about 1.7% per year. In 2000, about 26.3% of the total land area was forested.

The nation's water supply is at risk due to industrial and agricultural toxins. Guatemala has 27.8 cu mi of water with 74% used for agriculture and 17% used in farming activity.

United Nations sources show that environmental contamination is responsible for a significant number of deaths due to respiratory and digestive illnesses. Despite the establishment in 1975 of a ministerial commission charged with conserving and improving the human environment, coordination of antipollution efforts remains inadequate, and Guatemala still suffers from a lack of financial resources and well-trained personnel to implement environmental control programs.

In 2003, 20% of Guatemala's total land area was protected. Tikal National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there are four Ramsar wetland sites. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 7 types of mammals, 10 species of birds, 10 types of reptiles, 74 species of amphibians, 14 species of fish, 2 species of invertebrates, and 85 species of plants. Endangered or extinct species in Guatemala included the horned guan, Eskimo curlew, California least tern, green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle, olive ridley turtle, spectacled caiman, American crocodile, and Morelet's crocodile.

POPULATION

The population of Guatemala in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 12,701,000, which placed it at number 69 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 4% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 42% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 95 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 2.8%, a rate the government viewed as too high. Although the government implemented programs that provide access to subsidized contraception, only 31% of women used modern contraception and the fertility rate remained high at 4.9 births per woman. The projected population for the year 2025 was 19,962,000. The population density was 117 per sq km (302 per sq mi). Most of the population is concentrated in the southern third of the country.

The UN estimated that 39% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 3.27%. The capital city, Guatemala City, had a population of 951,000 in that year. Other large cities and their estimated populations are Quezaltenango, 250,000, and Escuintla, 68,000.

MIGRATION

Because of persecution and civil war, Amerindian peasants began emigrating across the Mexican border in 1981. Under the CIRE-FCA plan (International Conference on Central American Refugees), 18,000 Guatemalans repatriated between 1989 and 1994. In 1995, 9,500 repatriated from Mexico, and in 1996, another 3,974 repatriated from Mexico. In 1997, there were still 40,000 in Mexico and Belize. Between 1984, when the first repatriation movements took place, and 1999, a total of 43,663 refugees had returned to more than 160 communities throughout Guatemala. The Guatemalan government spent some $30 million on 36 farms purchased for collective returns. In 2004 there were 656 refugees, 4 asylum seekers, and 8 returned refugees. A population that remained of concern to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at the end of 2004 was 660 persons in Guatemala City.

In 2003 remittances were $2 billion. In 2005, the net migration rate was -1.63 migrants per 1,000 population, down from 4.3 per 1,000 in 1990. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.

ETHNIC GROUPS

Guatemala has a larger proportion of Amerindians in its total population than any other country in Central America. In 2004, persons of mixed Amerindian and Spanish ancestry, called mestizos, constituted about 59.4% of the national total. Amerindians who have become assimilated and no longer adhere to a traditional Amerindian life-style are also called ladinos, but this term is sometimes used to refer to mestizos. There are at least 22 separate Mayan groups, each with its own language. The largest minority groups include the Quiché (9.1%), the Cakchiquel (8.4%), the Mam (7.9%), and the Q'equchi (6.3%). Other Mayan groups account for about 8.6% of the population. The Garifuna are de scendants of African slaves. The white population is estimated at less than 1% of the total.

LANGUAGES

Spanish, spoken by about 60% of the population, is the official and commercial language. Amerindians speak some 28 dialects in five main language groups: Quiché, Mam, Pocomam, and Cholall of the Mayan language familyand Carib, Kekchi, Garifuna, Cakchiquel, and Xinca. Amerindian languages are spoken by about 40% of the populace. A 2003 Law of Languages mandates the use of Mayan languages in public sectors such as health, education, and justice.

RELIGIONS

Historically, Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion (between 5060%), with an archbishopric at Guatemala City and bishoprics at Quezaltenango, Verapaz, and Huehuetenango. Many inhabitants combine Catholic beliefs with traditional Mayan rites. Protestants account for about 40% of the population. The largest Protestant denominations are the Full Gospel Church, the Assembly of God, the Church of God of the Central American Church, and the Prince of Peace Church. Other denominations represented are Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Jehovah's Witnesses. Minority groups and religions with small communities include Jews, Muslims, and followers of the Indian spiritual leader Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

A 1995 Agreement on the Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples was approved to provide freedom of practice and promote respect for the forms of spirituality practiced by the Maya, Garifuna, and Xinca groups. As of 2005, however, very little had been done to implement the agreement. Though there is no official religion, the constitution recognizes the Catholic Church as a distinct legal personality. Other religious groups must register with the government in order to make legal business transactions. Some tension exists between Christian groups and the indigenous Mayan religious groups. The Interreligious Dialogue and Foro Guatemala are groups that encourage tolerance and cooperation between indigenous and Christian faiths. The Ecumenical Forum for Peace and Reconciliation is a group of primarily Christian leaders who conduct public conferences and debates on a variety of social and political topics.

TRANSPORTATION

In 2002, the total length of Guatemala's road system was estimated at 13,856 km (8,610 mi), of which 4,370 km (2,715 mi) was paved, including 140 km (87 mi) of expressways. In 2003, there were approximately 127,800 passenger cars and 145,900 commercial vehicles registered. Two international highways cross Guatemala: the 824-km (512-mi) Franklin D. Roosevelt Highway (part of the Pan American Highway system) and the Pacific Highway. Guatemala Railways operates 90% of the nation's 884 km (549 mi) railroad system, all of it narrow-gauge.

Few of the rivers and lakes are important to commercial navigation. Of the 990 km (615 mi) only 260 km (161 mi) are navigable year round, an additional 730 km (454 mi) are only navigable during high water. Puerto Barrios and Santo Tomás on the Caribbean coast are Guatemala's chief ports. The Pacific coast ports are Champerico and San José. In 2002, Guatemala had no registered cargo ships.

There were an estimated 452 airports in 2004, but only 11 had paved runways as of 2005. La Aurora International Airport at Guatemala City, the first air terminal in Central America, serves aircraft of all sizes, including jumbo jets. The government-owned Aviateca has a monopoly on scheduled domestic service and also flies to other Central American countries, Jamaica, Mexico, and the United States. In 1998, (the latest year for which data was available) 508,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.

HISTORY

Three distinct stagesMayan indigenous, Spanish colonial, and modern republicanhave left their mark on the history of Guatemala.

Guatemala includes much of the old Mayan civilization, which may date back as early as 300 bc. The classical Mayan period lasted from about ad 300 to 900 and featured highly developed architecture, painting, sculpture, music, mathematics (including the use of zero), a 365-day calendar, roads, and extensive trade. This great pre-Columbian civilization seems to have collapsed around ad 900, and by the 12th century, the Mayas had disintegrated into a number of separate Amerindian groups. The Amerindians offered resistance to the Spanish expedition sent by Hernán Cortés from Mexico and led by Pedro de Alvarado during 152324, but by the end of that time, their subjugation to Spain was virtually complete.

Alvarado founded the first Guatemalan capital, Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala, in 1524. Because of several earthquakes, the capital was moved a number of times until it became permanently established at Guatemala City in 1776. From 1524 until 1821, Guatemala (City and province) was the center of government for the captaincy-general of Guatemala, whose jurisdiction extended from Yucatán to Panama. Economically, this was mainly an agricultural and pastoral area in which Amerindian labor served a colonial landed aristocracy. The Roman Catholic religion and education regulated the social life of the capital. Spanish political and social institutions were added to Amerindian village life and customs, producing a hybrid culture.

In 1821, the captaincy-general won its independence from Spain. After a brief inclusion within the Mexican Empire of Agustín de Iturbide (182223), Guatemala, along with present-day Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, formed the United Provinces of Central America in 1824. This federation endured until 183839, but was fragmented by liberal and conservative divides. Guatemala proclaimed its independence in 1839 under the military rule of the conservative Rafael Carrera, an illiterate dictator with imperial designs. Though the people went through three different pushes for independence, representative democracy was the exception from the mid-19th century until the mid-1980s. The country passed through dictatorships, military rule, insurgencies (in the 1960s), and coups.

After Carrera died (without reaching his dictatorial goals), Guatemala fell under a number of military governments. These included three notable administrations: Justo Rufino Barrios (187185), the "Reformer," who ruled through the transition from the colonial to the modern era; Manuel Estrada Cabrera (18981920), whose early encouragement of reform developed later into a push for increased power; and Jorge Ubico (193144), who continued, and elaborated upon, the programs begun by Barrios.

Guatemalan politics changed with the election of reform candidate Juan José Arévalo Bermejo in 1945. Arévalo's popularity marked one of the first mass-based movements in Guatemalan politics. In 1951, Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán was elected. Following Arévalo's approach to land reform, Árbenz expropriated holdings of the United Fruit Co., a US firm. The United States alleged communist influence within the Árbenz government, and began mobilizing opposition against him. In the summer of 1954, Col. Carlos Castillo Armas and an army of Guatemalan exiles, backed by the CIA, invaded Guatemala from Honduras and toppled Árbenz. Castillo took over, restored expropriated properties, and ruled by decree until he was assassinated by a presidential palace guard in July 1957.

After a period of confusion, Gen. Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes became president in January 1958. His administration was essentially a military dictatorship, even though he claimed to follow democratic principles. He was particularly hard on his domestic critics, denouncing them as communists. He was equally bombastic on the international stage, denouncing the United States, quarreling with Mexico over fishing rights, and challenging the United Kingdom over Belize. He was also contemptuous of Fidel Castro, and allowed Guatemala to be a training area for the exiles in the abortive US invasion of the Bay of Pigs in April 1961.

In March 1963, Ydígoras was overthrown by Defense Minister Col. Enrique Peralta Azurdia, who declared a state of siege. For two years, Peralta ruled dictatorially, and continued to assert Guatemala's claims on Belize. In September 1965, the Peralta regime announced a new constitution and elections, and in March 1966, Dr. Julio César Méndez Montenegro was elected president. He was the first civilian president since Árbenz, and would be the last for some time. During his term, the army and right wing counter-terrorists proceeded to kill hundreds of guerrillas, who were believed to be sponsored by Cuba, and claimed destruction of the guerrilla organization by the end of 1967. Uprooted from the countryside, the guerrillas concentrated their efforts on the capital, where, in 1968, guerrillas assassinated US Ambassador John G. Mein.

Guatemala returned to military rule as Col. Carlos Arana Osorio was elected president in 1970. He instituted the country's first comprehensive development plan, but the plan was upset by guerrilla violence, which now engulfed the country. Ambassador Karl von Spreti of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) was murdered in April 1970 by leftists. Many prominent Guatemalans were killed or held for ransom. In response to the violence, Arana suspended civil liberties from November 1970 to November 1971. In 1974, Arana's candidate, Gen. Kjell Laugerud García, was confirmed by Congress as president, after an election marred by charges of fraud. Laugerud followed a centrist policy and obtained a measure of popular support. During his tenure, guerrilla violence decreased, and some political liberties were restored. The principal challenge to Laugerud's administration was the need to rebuild Guatemala after the catastrophic earthquake of February 1976.

A militant rightist, Gen. Fernando Romeo Lucas García, was elected president in 1978. As guerrilla violence continued, there was also an upsurge of activity by right wing "death squads," which, according to unofficial Guatemalan sources, committed over 3,250 murders in 1979 and even more during 1980. In addition, hundreds of Amerindians were reportedly massacred during antiguerrilla operations. The Carter administration objected to Guatemala's deteriorating human rights record, whereupon the military charged that communist influence had reached the White House.

In January 1981, the main guerrilla groups united and escalated while the government went into crisis. The elections of March 1982 were won by Laugerud's handpicked candidate, Gen. Angel Aníbal Guevara. Three weeks later, a coup placed in power a "born-again" Protestant, Gen. José Efraín Ríos Montt. After his month-long amnesty offer to the guerrillas was rejected, he declared a state of siege in July, and the antiguerrilla campaign intensified. The government's counter-insurgency killed between 2,600 and 6,000 in 1982, and drove up to a million Guatemalans from their homes by the end of 1983. In March 1983, Ríos lifted the state of siege and announced that elections for a constituent assembly would be held in July 1984. But Ríos, who had fought off some 10 coup attempts during his administration, was overthrown in August 1983.

The new government of Brig. Gen. Oscar Humberto Mejía Victores declared that the coup was undertaken to end "abuses by religious fanatics" and pledged continued efforts to eradicate the "virus of Marxism-Leninism." Elections for a constituent assembly were held, as promised, in July 1984. In May 1985, the assembly promulgated a constitution for a new government with an elected Congress. The general elections of November 1985 were followed by a runoff election in December. The overwhelming winner was Mario Vincio Cerezo Arévalo of the Guatemalan Christian Democratic Party (DCG). He also brought a majority into Congress. Political violence decreased under Cerezo, who withstood two attempted coups. But he was unable to make any progress on human rights in Guatemala, and was unwilling to risk prosecution of military personnel who had been the most serious violators. As the economy worsened, political instability increased, including violence.

The elections of 11 November 1990 necessitated a runoff election, which was won by Jorge Serrano of the Movement for Solidarity and Action (Movimiento para Acción y SolidaridadMAS). Serrano's inauguration in January 1991 marked the first transition in memory from one elected civilian government to another. Serrano promised to negotiate with insurgents and bring to justice both corrupt former officials and human rights violators, but was deposed by the military after he declared a state of emergency and suspended the constitution on 25 May 1993. The military, in unusual service in defense of democracy, then allowed Congress to name Ramior de Serrano's successor. This unusual service of the military in defense of democracy led to the naming of Ramior de León Carpio as president on 5 June. De León, a human rights advocate, promised to bring to justice those responsible for the dismal state of human rights in Guatemala. He also proposed reductions in the military, which predictably were not well-received by the officer corps.

On 29 December 1996, under the government of Alvaro Arzu, the Guatemalan government signed a peace accord with the guerrilla Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity. This signaled the end of Central America's longest-running guerrilla war, beginning with an informal cease-fire in March 1996, and the signing of the socioeconomic accord (which called for the government to raise its tax revenues from 8% to 12% of GDP and increase its spending in health, education, and housing). The last accord, signed in Mexico City in September 1996, called for legislative and judicial reforms. It also included a reassessment of the military's role, as the parties agreed to remove the army from public security functions and to annul the law that provided for the Civil Defense Patrols established in the 1980s to fight guerrillas in the highland villages.

In February 1999, the country's Historical Clarification Commission blamed the army for more than 90% of the deaths or disappearances of more than 200,000 Guatemalans during the 36-year civil war. In many instances, the army committed genocide against entire Mayan villages, the report concluded. The three-member commission blamed the United States government for supporting right wing regimes even though it knew about the atrocities being committed by the army. An earlier report by the Catholic Church revealed similar findings. During a short visit to Guatemala in March 1999, US president Bill Clinton said his country had been wrong for supporting the Guatemalan army. He pledged to support the peace process. In May, the peace process suffered a setback when Guatemalans rejected 50 key constitutional reforms that would have diminished the role of the army and given protection and recognition to Amerindian languages and traditional customs, in a vote in which only about 20% of Guatemalans took part.

In November of 1999, a populist lawyer named Alfonso Portillo captured 47.8% of the vote in the presidential election. This vote was not enough to prevent a runoff election (held a month later), which was unsurprising as Portillo was a very controversial candidate. Portillo had fled Mexico in 1982 to avoid what he termed unfair prosecution for the killing (in self-defense) of two men in Guerrero. Further, he was also associated with former dictator Rios Montt (whose 17-month regime in 198283 committed some of the worst atrocities against Amerindians) through membership in the conservative Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG). Ríos Montt, who had his eye set on the presidency in 2003, worked closely with Portillo as FRG's secretary general. Portillo built support with promises to reduce crime, one of the worst problems facing the nation after the war. Crime was rampant throughout the nation, with dramatic increases in murders, kidnappings, and armed robbery. Portillo also promised to aid the poor and curb unemployment, a message that did not go unheard in a nation where 64% of Guatemalans are unemployed or underemployed. In the December runoff election, Portillo captured 68.3% of the vote to win the presidency. His party captured 63 of 113 seats in Congress, while the conservative PAN won 37 seats. A leftist coalition captured nine seats.

Montt attempted to overturn a constitutional ban preventing former coup plotters from running for public office, but he failed to overturn the ban in 1999. It was widely speculated that, in the midst of meager economic growth, a 60% poverty rate, and increasing levels of crime and violence, Montt's tough-on-crime stance would be able to convince the Guatemalans to give him a second chance. However, Montt was defeated in the first round of voting, as he was only able to win 19.3% of the vote. The former Guatemala City mayor, Oscar Berger Perdomo won 54.1% of the vote as the Grand National Alliance (GANA) candidate. Alvarado Colom Caballeros, a center-left candidate of the National Unity for Hope (UNE) party, garnered 49.1% of the vote. Though there were fears that violence and fraud might mar the election, those fears were not realized. Berger Perdomo, a conservative backed by the business class, assumed office on 14 January 2004. Portillo, however, quickly fled Guatemala as news of a corruption scandal in the presidency grew. In October 2005, Guatemala requested that Mexico send Portillo back to face accusations of public funds misusespecifically, a diversion of about $16 million in military funds.

In his inaugural speech, Oscar Berger Perdomo committed to adherence to the 1996 Peace Accords. However, the UN Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) reported that many of the fundamental reforms of the 1996 Peace Accords were not being realized due to persistent racism and social inequality. MINU-GUA predicted that the persistence would lead to an engendered future social conflict, stunted economic development, and corrosion of democratic government. Violence against women, femicide, was also a growing problem in Guatemala, where 527 women, mostly poor, were reportedly raped and murdered in 2004.

Civil war, corruption, and instability are among the reported reasons that Guatemala maintained a 75% poverty rate in 2005. The effects of Hurricane Stan and its concomitant flooding and landslides, claimed thousands of lives in October 2005.

GOVERNMENT

Constitutionally, the Guatemalan government is defined as democratic and representative, and the new constitution that took effect on 14 January 1986 reaffirms that definition. Since the 1950s, however, civil disorder has often prompted the suspension of constitutional guarantees. In October, 1999, Congress approved constitutional reforms that ended the military's constitutional role in internal security except for limited periods and under civilian control.

Guatemala is a republic. The president, who must be a nativeorn lay person at least 40 years old, is elected by direct vote for a four-year term and may not be reelected. The constitution calls for a popularly elected vice president. The office of vice president provides a guarantee of presidential succession in case of the death or disability of the chief executive. There is a five-member court of constitutionality, which officially advises the president. Its members are appointed, one each by the Supreme Court, Congress, the president, the University of San Carlos, and the bar association. The president, who has broad powers, appoints and is assisted by a cabinet. The cabinet members traditionally resign at the end of each year so that the president may choose a new cabinet. The president, who is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces, appoints most military officers, the 22 governors, and other important public and diplomatic officials. Presidential duties include preserving public order, proposing laws, and making an annual presentation of the budget.

The unicameral National Congress has 113 members elected to four-year terms. Ninety-one members are elected from departmental constituencies, while 22 are elected by proportional representation. In districts with a population over 200,000, an additional deputy is elected to represent each additional 100,000 inhabitants or fraction exceeding 50,000. In addition, at-large representatives are elected by proportional representation from lists submitted by each political party. Under the constitution, Congress imposes taxes, enacts the national budget, declares war and makes peace, and ratifies treaties and conventions proposed by the president. Congress elects the president of the judiciary and judges of the Supreme Court and courts of appeals. The president may veto congressional bills, but Congress may override by a two-thirds vote. All public officials must declare the amount of their incomes and property holdings before assuming their posts and after they leave office.

Citizenship is acquired at the age of 18. Voting is obligatory for literate men and women 18 years of age and older and optional for nonliterate citizens.

POLITICAL PARTIES

Political power in Guatemala has been largely a matter of personal, rather than party, influence. Although parties have generally developed along conservative or liberal lines, political periods are commonly identified with the names of important leaders.

Under President Carlos Castillo Armas (195457), the Guatemalan Communist Party and other leftist parties were dissolved, and all other parties were temporarily suspended. To prevent further party proliferation, the membership necessary for party certification was raised from 10,000 to 50,000 in 1963. Only three parties were able to meet this requirement in time for the March 1966 elections: the Revolutionary Party (Partido RevolucionarioPR), a center-left party, the conservative Institutional Democracy Party (Partido Institucional DemocráticoPID), formed in 1965, and the militantly anticommunist National Liberation Movement (Movimiento de Liberación NacionalMLN).

During the 1970s, these parties remained dominant. The MLN won the presidency in 1970, and an MLD-PID coalition took the 1974 election (which was ultimately decided in Congress), defeating Gen. José Efraín Ríos Montt, representing the leftist National Opposition Front, a coalition of the several parties, including the Christian Democrats (Partido de Democracía Cristiana GuatemaltecaDCG). In 1978, the PR and PID formed a center-right coalition. In the congressional voting, the MLN won 20 seats, the PID 17, the PR 14, the DCG 7, and other parties 3. In the presidential elections of March 1982, a coalition of the PR, PID, and the National Unity Front (Frente de Unidad NacionalFUN), an extreme right wing party formed in 1977, won a plurality of 38.9% of the vote. Congress endorsed the PR-PID-FUN candidate, Gen. Ángel Aníbal Guevara, as president, but he was deposed in a coup later in March. All parties were suspended by the new ruler, Gen. Ríos, but political activity resumed in March 1983. In the 1980s, the Christian Democrats grew significantly, winning the 1985 presidential and congressional elections. In addition, a host of new parties entered the political arena. Many had hopeful names suggesting national reconciliation, moderation, and solutions to Guatemala's problems. Among these were the National Union of the Center (Unión del Centro NacionalUCN), the Democratic Party for National Cooperation (Partido Democrático de Cooperación NacionalPDCN), the Solidarity Action Movement (Movimiento para Acción y SolidaridadMAS), the National Advancement Plan (Plan por el Adelantamiento Nacional), and the National Authentic Center (Centro Auténtico Nacional).

The left wing guerrilla movement is represented by the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional GuatemaltecaURNG). Founded in 1982, these groups consist of the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (Ejército Guerrillero de los PobresEGP), the Guatemalan Workers' (Communist) Party (Partido Guatemalteco del TrabajoPGT), the Rebel Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas RebeldesFAR), and the Organization of the People in Arms (Organización del Pueblo en ArmasORPA). During the 1999 elections, the leftists won nine seats in Congress. The main political parties in 1999 were the conservative Frente Republicano Guatemalteco and Partido de Avanzada Nacional; Frente had 63 seats in Congress and PAN had 37 seats.

In the November 2003 elections, the Grand National Alliance (GANA) won 49 of the 140 seats in Congress; the FRG won 42 seats; the National Unity for Hope (UNE) won 33 seats; and PAN took 16. In the November and December 2003 presidential elections, Óscar Berger Perdomo of the Grand National Alliance won both the first and second rounds of voting to become president. His opponent, Caballeros, won 49.1% of the vote. The next legislative and presidential elections were scheduled for November 2007.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Guatemala is divided into 22 departments, plus Guatemala City, each with a governor appointed by the president. Municipalities are governed by a mayor and independent municipal councils whose officials are popularly elected for two-year terms.

JUDICIAL SYSTEM

The Constitution of 1985 established an independent judiciary and a human rights ombudsman. Courts of ordinary jurisdiction are the nine-member Supreme Court, 10 courts of appeals, 33 civil courts of first instance, and 10 penal courts of first instance. There is also a Constitutional Court. Judges of the Supreme Court and courts of appeals are elected for four-year terms by the National Congress from lists prepared by active magistrates, the Bar Association, and law school deans. Judges of first instance are appointed by the Supreme Court. Courts of private jurisdiction deal separately with questions involving labor, administrative litigation, conflicts of jurisdiction, military affairs, and other matters. An independent tribunal and office of accounts supervises financial matters of the nation, the municipalities, and state-supported institutions, such as the National University.

In 1986, under Cerezo's civilian government, reforms were added in the effort to end political violence and establish rule of law. These included amparo (court ordered protection), new laws of habeas corpus, and a series of Supreme Court reforms to fight corruption and make the legal system more efficient. However, the government was criticized for still failing to investigate and prosecute human rights violations throughout the rest of Cerezo's term.

A new criminal procedural code affording stronger due process protections took effect in July 1994. Trials are public. Defendants have the rights to counsel, to be presumed innocent, and to be released on bail.

In 2001, there was some concern that intimidation would stop justice, specifically in regards to the prosecution of the Bishop Gerardi murder. In this trial, retired army and foreign intelligence chief Col. Disrael Lima and his son Capt. Byron Lima were charged for murder along with former member of the Presidential Guard (EMP) Ogdulio Villanueva, among others. Archbishop Gerardi was beat to death two days after the Restoration of Historical Memory (REMHI) report was released by the human rights office (ODHA) that he headed. The report blamed the military and paramilitary for Guatemala's 36-year long civil war and the majority of deaths that occurred during that time. The reopening of the trial in 2001 was met by a bomb attack against Judge Iris Yassmin Barrios the night before the reopening of the Gerardi trial. Several witnesses died suspiciously, and judicial officials, judges, and prosecutors backed out of participation in the case due to threats and surveillance.

In 2004, Guatemala's judiciary was still said to suffer from corruption, inefficiency, intimidation, and the de facto doling out of impunity, despite its legal independence. Furthermore, military courts retain control of military personnel who commit crimes while on official business, thus disallowing civil courts to try human rights abuses by the military.

The consequently incomplete justice under the formal judicial system has been a reason that some citizens have taken justice into their own hands through the carrying out of linchamientos in vigilante groups that attack war criminals and others accused of war crimes. According to MINUGUA, an average of one lynching per week was carried out between April 1997 and May 1998, usually in rural areas lacking substantive police presence and where civil patrols had once been prevalent. Former patrollers, ironically, were often involved in the instigation of attacks.

Some outside courts have attempted to give justice where Guatemalan courts have had less progress. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered that the state pay compensation to victims of human rights abuses committed by the state. In December, 2004, $3.5 million was paid. The court found the state specifically responsible for the 1982 massacre of 268 people in Plan de Sanchez, Rabinal, and Baja Verapaz. The Constitutional Court, in 2005, also rejected the proposal to create a UN Commission for the Investigation of Illegal Bodies and Clandestine Security Apparatus, saying it would be unconstitutional and that alternative methods of protecting human rights from state aggression would be carried out. It also questioned the legality of Guatemala's accepting the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. An attorney with close ties to the military sought this ruling. Incidentally, Guatemala had not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, either, as of 2004.

The World Bank invested in a Judicial Reform Project aiming to create a more effective, accessible and credible judicial system that would improve consistency, equity, public trust, and confidence in its judging of the law.

ARMED FORCES

The Guatemalan national armed forces (29,200 active and 35,200 reservists in 2005) are combined for administrative purposes, with the Army providing logistical support to the Navy and Air Force. In 2005 the Army had 27,000 active personnel, while there were 1,500 in the Navy, and 700 in the Air Force. The Army's primary armament included 12 light tanks, 57 reconnaissance vehicles, and over 118 artillery pieces. The Navy's major units consisted of 31 coastal patrol craft and 1 amphibious landing craft. The Air Force had 10 combat capable aircraft, including 4 fighter ground attack aircraft, in addition to 21 utility helicopters. Paramilitary forces included a 19,000 member national police force, in addition to a 2,500 member Treasury Police force. The defense budget in 2005 totaled $101 million. A decree promulgated in December 1983 authorized military service for women.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

Guatemala is a charter member of the United Nations, having joined on 21 November 1945; it participates in ECLAC and several other UN specialized agencies, such as the FAO, ILO, IMF, UNESCO, UNIDO, WHO, and the World Bank. It is one of five members of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE) and the Central American Common Market (CACM). The country also belongs to G-24, G-77, the Latin American Economic System (LAES), OAS, the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and the Río Group. In 2004, Guatemala, the United States, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic signed the US Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The agreement must be ratified by all participating countries before it enters into force. Guatemala has observer status in the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA). Guatemala was a founding member of the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN).

Guatemala is part of the Nonaligned Movement and is a signatory of the 1947 Río Treaty, an inter-American security agreement. The country is also part of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL). In environmental cooperation, Guatemala is part of the Antarctic Treaty, the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the London Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification. Guatemala is also signatory to the Central American-US Joint Declaration (CONCAUSA).

ECONOMY

Since the Spanish conquest, the economy of Guatemala has depended on the export of one or two agricultural products. During the colonial period, indigo and cochineal were the principal exports, but the market for them was wiped out by synthetic dyes in the 1860s. Cocoa and essential oils quickly filled the void. Coffee and bananas were introduced later, and in 1999, the chief exports were coffee, sugar, and bananas. Guatemala's economy, the largest in Central America, is dominated by the private sector, which generates nearly 90% of GDP. Since World War II, the government has encouraged light industrial production (such as tires, clothing, and pharmaceuticals). Nevertheless, in 1995, agricultural pursuits occupied 58% of the national labor force and accounted for some two-thirds of Guatemalan foreign exchange earnings. Living standards and personal income remain low, and no significant domestic market exists, except for subsistence crops. However, the agricultural-based structure of the economy has been changing slowly since about 1980, morphing into a country that is more services-based and focused on commerce and financial services. As of 2004, commerce was the largest sector in the economy, accounting for approximately 25% of GDP; agriculture comprised 22.8% of GDP. Manufacturing accounted for 12.6% of the GDP.

The economy boomed from 1971 thorough early 1974. Then, as a result of inflation (21.2% in 1973), the world energy crisis, and an annual population growth of 2.9%, the economic growth rate slowed from 7.6% for 1973 to 4.6% for 1974. During the second half of the 1970s, Guatemala's economic performance slowed further; during 197480, the average annual growth rate was 4.3%. By the early 1980s, the civil war, coupled with depressed world commodity prices, had led to decreases in export earnings and to foreign exchange shortages. The GDP dropped by 3.5% in 1982, the first decline in decades, and the GDP declined or was stagnant through 1986. The annual inflation rate, which averaged 11% during 197981, dropped to no more than 2% in 1982. It rose thereafter, reaching 31.5% in 1985 and about 40% in the first half of 1986.

In the 1990s the Guatemalan economy grew at a healthy pace, propelled by nontraditional exports and investment. Inflation was reduced through fiscal and monetary policies to an average of 12% in 1993. Economic growth accelerated to an estimated 5.0% in 1993 compared with 4.6% in 1992. In a sudden shift that was perceived as a recession by the private sector, GDP growth decelerated in 1996 to 3.1%. The slowdown reflected a combination of factors: windfall profits from coffee exports, a slowdown in most Central American countries causing a significant decline in Guatemalan exports, and a severe competition of domestic products by Mexican imports. In addition, domestic demand cooled off as private sector credit demand ran out of steam, and tax increases were designed to strengthen the fiscal situation ahead of the signing of the peace accords. Growth for 1997 had improved to 4% thanks to greater domestic and trade liberalization; despite Hurricane Mitch, which destroyed a large portion of the country's agricultural produce for the year, GDP growth reached 5% in 1998.

Real GDP growth remained steady throughout 200105, between 23%. Additionally, inflation remained under 10% for the 5-year period.

The US Central Intelligence Agency reported that Guatemala was still struggling with an appalling poverty rate75% of the population lived beneath the poverty line as of 2004. The unemployment rate was estimated at 7.5% in 2003, and GDP per capita was estimated at $4,200 in 2004. In 2004, there remained an estimated 250,000 internally displaced persons, indicative of the continued negative influence of prior conflict on the current economy.

INCOME

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Guatemala's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $62.8 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $4,300. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 3.1%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 9.1%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 22.8% of GDP, industry 19.1%, and services 58.1%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $2.147 billion or about $175 per capita and accounted for approximately 8.7% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $247 million or about $20 per capita and accounted for approximately 1.0% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Guatemala totaled $22.25 billion or about $1,809 per capita based on a GDP of $24.7 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 4.0%. It was estimated that in 2004 about 75% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.

LABOR

In 2005 Guatemla's labor force was estimated at 3.76 million. As of 2002, it was divided among the following sectors: agriculture 38.7%; industry 20%; services 37.5%; with 3.9% in other undefined occupations. As of 2003, the unemployment rate was estimated at 7.5%.

The trade union movement was born at the end of World War II. Directed in part by foreign communist labor leaders and cultivated by a sympathetic administration, the labor movement grew in the next 10 years to a force claiming nearly 500 unions with 100,000 members. With the overthrow of the Árbenz government in 1954, however, the unions were dissolved. After slow reorganization, the trade unions numbered about 110 by 1974, but in 1979 and 1980, trade union activity was severely restricted. In 1992, the Labor Code of 1947 was amended to facilitate freedom of association, to strengthen the rights of working women, to increase penalties for violations of labor laws, and to enhance the role of the Labor Ministry and the courts in enforcement. Approximately 2% of the workforce were union members in 2002. Unions are independent of government and political party domination, however retaliation against union participation is common. Workers dismissed for union activity have little legal or administrative redress. Workers have the right to strike, but it is weakened by legal restrictions and the force of tradition in a country where strikes were illegal until recently.

The workweek is statutorily recognized as being 44 hours long, but most workers work longer hours out of economic necessity. The minimum legal age to work is 14 but child labor remains a huge problem particularly in agriculture and in the informal economy. Hazardous conditions for child laborers are common especially in the fireworks industry. The minimum wage as of 2002 was $3.57 per eight-hour day for industrial workers and $3.24 per day for agricultural workers. There is routine noncompliance of the minimum wage law in the rural areas.

AGRICULTURE

In 2003, only about 18.9% of the total land area of Guatemala was used for the production of annual or perennial crops, although almost two-thirds is suitable for crop or pasture use. Agriculture contributes about 23% to GDP, makes up 48% of export earnings, and employs 46% of the labor force. The principal cash crops are coffee, sugar, bananas, and cotton, followed by hemp, essential oils, and cacao. Coffee is grown on highland plantations; most of the bananas are produced along the Atlantic coastal plain. Cash crop output in 2004 included 18,000,000 tons of sugarcane, 216,000 tons of coffee, 1,000 tons of cotton, and 1,000,000 tons of bananas. Subsistence crop production included 1,072,000 tons of corn and 97,000 tons of dry beans, along with rice, wheat, and fruits and vegetables. Nontraditional agricultural exports have greatly increased in recent years; such products include: lychee, rambutan, melon, papaya, mango, pineapple, broccoli, okra, snow peas, celery, cauliflower, asparagus, garlic, spices and nuts, and ornamental plants. Guatemala's trade deficit in agricultural products was $454.5 million in 2004.

An agrarian reform law of 1952 provided for government expropriation of unused privately owned agricultural lands, with the exception of farms of 91 hectares (225 acres) or less and those up to 273 hectares (675 acres) if two-thirds of the acreage was under cultivation. By 1954/55, 24,836 hectares (61,371 acres) had been distributed to 10,359 farmers. The law of 1952 was supplemented by an agrarian reform law of 1956, which aimed to distribute state-owned farms (fincas nacionales) to landless peasants. From 1954 to 1962, the government distributed 17,346 land titles. In 1962, the National Agrarian Improvement Institute was created to provide assistance to the new landowners and to improve their living standards. The government requires plantation owners to set aside land for the raising of subsistence crops for their tenants. An agrarian credit bank provides loans to small farmers. Some of the land farmed by Amerindians is held in common by groups of families and is never sold.

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY

Consumption of dairy products and meat is low, despite improvements in stock raising and dairying. The wool industry in the western highlands supplies the famed Guatemalan weavers. Hog and poultry production is ample for domestic consumption. In 2005, there were 2,540,000 head of cattle, 212,000 hogs, 260,000 sheep, 124,000 horses, and 27,000,000 chickens. Guatemala exports poultry, with 155,000 tons of poultry meat and 85,000 tons of eggs produced in 2005. Total cattle numbers continue to fall despite increased illegal imports from Honduras and a decline in illegal exports to Mexico. Depressed beef prices and rising production costs are the main causes of this trend.

FISHING

Guatemalan waters are rich in fish, including shrimp, snapper, and tuna. The total catch in 2003 was 30,480 tons (up from 6,513 tons in 1991), about 32% of which came from inland waters.

FORESTRY

Forests are among Guatemala's richest natural resources; they covered some 26% of the total land area in 2000. The forests in the Petén region yield cabinet woods, timber, extracts, oils, gums, and dyes. Mahogany, cedar, and balsam are important export products, and chicle for chewing gum is another important commodity. In 2004, 16.4 million cu m (579 million cu ft) of roundwood were produced, with 97% burned for fuel. Sawn wood production was 366,000 cu m (12.9 million cu ft) that year. Imports of forestry products exceeded exports by $165.8 million in 2004.

MINING

The principal commercial minerals were gold, iron ore, and lead. Production of antimony fell to zero in 19992001, from a high of 1,020 tons in 1997, when Guatemala ranked third in Latin America, behind Bolivia and Mexico. Gold, which was mined from the colonial period until the early 20th century, was no longer a major export item. An estimated 4,550 kg was produced in 2003, up from an estimated 4,500 kg in 2002. Rough marble, which ranged in color from white through green, was exported to Mexico and other nearby countries. Deposits of nickel have also been found at Marichaj and Sechol. Barite, bentonite, kaolin, other clays, feldspar, gypsum, iron ore, lime, pumice, salt, limestone, sand and gravel, and silica sand were also produced, primarily for domestic use. Reported deposits of copper, quartz, manganese, uranium, mica, and asbestos awaited exploitation.

ENERGY AND POWER

Guatemala is the only oil producing country in Central America, but has no refining capacity. Therefore it must import all of its refined petroleum products. Most of the country's oil production lies in its northern jungles along the Mexican border. According to the Oil and Gas Journal, Guatemala has proven oil reserves of 526 million barrels, as of October 2005. Since the end of the civil war in 1996, the government has been granting oil exploration concessions. In March of 2005, a new oil licensing round was initiated, the first since 1997. Two blocks, A6 and A7, with known proven reserves were offered, with two unexplored blocks, Piedras Blancas and Cotcal offered. Production averaged an estimated 19,800 barrels per day in 2004, of which almost all was exported to the United States. In 2002, oil exports totaled an estimated 3,104 barrels per day. Consumption of refined products totaled 64,560 barrels per day in that year. Guatemala has modest natural gas reserves of 1.543 billion cu m as of 1 January 2002, but no production.

Guatemala is Central America's largest producer and consumer of electricity. In 2002, electric power generating capacity came to 1.698 million kW, while total production in that year reached 6.808 billion kWh, of which: fossil fuels accounted for almost 60%; hydropower for 27%; and geothermal/other sources accounted for the rest. Electricity consumption in Guatemala grew at an annual rate of 8.1% from 1993 to 2003. In 2002, electric power demand totaled 5.76 billion kWh. The surplus power generated has made Guatemala a power exporter. In 2002, electric power exports totaled 4.40 million kWh, with imports at 55 million kWh.

INDUSTRY

Manufacturing and construction accounted for a growing proportion of GDP in 2004. In that year, agriculture accounted for 22.7% of the GDP while industry accounted for 19.5% and services accounted for 57.9%. Guatemalan factories produce beverages, candles, cement, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, cigarettes, foodstuffs, furniture, matches, molasses, rubber goods, shirts, shoes, soap, sugar, textiles, and apparel. More recently established firms produce electrical machinery, refined petroleum products, metal furniture, instant coffee, pasteurized milk, plastic, plywood, aluminum and tires. Handmade woven and leather goods are sold to tourists and exported.

Most of the country's industrial enterprises operate on a very small scale. A small domestic market has traditionally limited Guatemala's industrial potential, although the CACM temporarily broadened the market for the country's exported manufactures. The value of Guatemala's exports more than tripled between 1972 and 1978. During the 1980s, however, the industrial sector declined, partly because of the collapse of the CACM but also because of a shortage of the foreign exchange necessary to purchase basic materials. In the mid-1980s, Guatemalan firms turned to export production as internal demand contracted. The 1986 devaluation of the quetzal raised the cost of imported industrial inputs. During the 1990s, the value added by manufacturing remained at a steady pace, except for during 1996. The manufacturing sector suffered from increased competition from Mexico, often unregistered and untaxed, while export to major neighboring markets was hampered in 1996 by the slowdown in Costa Rica and El Salvador.

In 2002, major manufactures included sugar, clothing and textiles, furniture, chemicals, petroleum, metals, and rubber. Heavy industry included a small steel mill located in Escuintla, and an oil refinery that had a capacity of 16,000 barrels per day. The pharmaceutical industry shrank by 53% in 1998 because several manufacturing companies had moved their businesses to Mexico. Construction, very dynamic during the first half of the 1990s, was affected by falling demand in 1996 and 1997, but grew by about 25% annually in 1998 and 1999. Electricity generation and telephone services continued to grow strongly, while oil production, thanks to a very active development policy, increased by 250% between 1992 and 1998.

Maquila plants have comprised a growing proportion of the manufacturing sector, though they are not as heavy of a proportion as in Mexico, Honduras, or El Salvador. In 1994, maquilas in Guatemala employed 70,000; this number grew to 113,200 in 2004. As of December 2004, 222 maquila plans operated in Guatemala65.3% were Korean-owned, 27% Guatemalan-owned, and 59.9% US-owned.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

In 198797, total Guatemalan expenditures on research and development amounted to 0.2% of GDP, with 112 technicians and 104 scientists and engineers per million people engaged in research and development. The Academy of Medical, Physical, and Natural Sciences, headquartered in Guatemala City, dates from 1945. In 1996, Guatemala had learned societies devoted to natural history, pediatrics, and engineering, and research institutes concerned with nuclear energy, industry, and earth sciences. The Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama founded in 1949 and administered by the Pan American Health Bureau Organization and the World Health Organization, conducts research and disseminates scientific and technical information. Five universities offer degrees in basic and applied sciences. The National Museum of Natural History is located in Guatemala City.

In 2002, high technology exports by Guatemala totaled $55 million, or 7% of the country's manufactured exports.

DOMESTIC TRADE

Outside the capital city, markets are held on appointed days, and local fairs are held annually. Traders bring their wares on large racks atop buses or by mule, herding animals ahead of them. Prices are not fixed. Although there are some modern, tourist-oriented shops, traditional methods of commerce, with modifications, also prevail in Guatemala City. Franchise stores are beginning to gain acceptance. In 2002, there were about 150 franchising companies with around 450 outlets nationwide. Business hours are weekdays, 8 am to 6 pm; shops also open on Saturday mornings. Normal banking hours in Guatemala City are weekdays, 9 am to 3 pm.

FOREIGN TRADE

The Guatemalan commodity export market is dominated by coffee, sugar, bananas, and oil. Other main exports are medicinal and pharmaceutical products, vegetables, and cardamom. Nontraditional exports, such as cut flowers, fruits and berries, shrimp, and textile assembly, are of growing importance to the Guatemalan economy.

Most exports go to the United States (55.3% in 2003); they also have increasingly gone to other Central American countries. Guatemala runs a trade surplus with the region, exporting mainly to El Salvador (10.5% of exports), but also to Honduras (7.1%) and Mexico (4.1%). As of 2003, Guatemala imported primarily from

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 2,634.7 6,718.7 -4,084.0
United States 790.9 2,944.1 -2,153.2
El Salvador 501.7 398.9 102.8
Honduras 281.2 101.5 179.7
Nicaragua 153.9 153.9
Costa Rica 152.6 302.1 -149.5
Mexico 106.9 561.9 -455.0
Panama 91.6 322.2 -230.6
Korea, Republic of 59.5 85.4 -25.9
Russia 46.7 5.0 41.7
Germany 46.3 159.0 -112.7
() data not available or not significant.

the United States (comprising 33.1% of imports), Mexico (9.1%), and South Korea (8.8%). In 2004 Guatemala imported 34% of its imports from the United States, 8.1% from Mexico, 6.8% from South Korea, 6.6% from China, and 4.4% from Japan. Guatemala typically imports fuels, machinery and transport equipment, construction materials, grain, fertilizers, and electricity.

Guatemala signed the Central American Free-Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) on 10 March 2005.

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS

Guatemala generally finances its trade deficit through capital inflows. Capital flight caused by regional instability during the 1980s led to large deficits on the overall payments balance and brought foreign exchange reserves down from $709.6 million at the end of 1978 to $112.2 million at the end of 1982. In 1991 and 1992,

Current Account -1,050.9
   Balance on goods -3,126.7
     Imports -6,175.0
     Exports 3,048.3
   Balance on services -68.0
   Balance on income -318.1
   Current transfers 2,461.9
Capital Account 133.8
Financial Account 1,155.9
   Direct investment abroad
   Direct investment in Guatemala 115.8
   Portfolio investment assets 21.7
   Portfolio investment liabilities -11.0
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets 116.0
   Other investment liabilities 913.4
Net Errors and Omissions 311.4
Reserves and Related Items -550.1
() data not available or not significant.

with inflation lowered, private capital inflows were large enough to offset public capital outflows and the current account deficit. As a result, foreign reserves expanded during the 1990s, growing by $559 million. Foreign exchange reserves were over $1 billion from 1997 into 1999. Exports increased by 7.2% in 1997 and by 20.7% in 1998. National income reports do not include the export value added by the textile assembly industry (as they are generally located in the Free Trade Zones), and remittances from Guatemalans living abroad, which help finance the trade deficit.

Guatemala's underdeveloped infrastructure is a hindrance to foreign investment and economic development. A disproportionate share of investment goes to the Guatemala City area, despite rehabilitation of the railway system and investment in highways, telephone service, and electricity.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2004 exports were approximately $2.9 billion; imports were approximately $7.1 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of approximately $4.2 billion.

BANKING AND SECURITIES

The Bank of Guatemala (BANGUAT) is the central bank and the bank of issue. The Monetary Board, an independent body, determines the monetary policy of the country. Associated with the Bank of Guatemala are six other government institutions: The National Mortgage Credit Institute (the official government mortgage bank); two development banks, the National Bank of Agricultural Development and the National Housing Bank; and the National Finance Corp., organized in 1973 to lend funds to industry, tourism, and mining to provide technical assistance. BAN-GUAT intervenes in the foreign exchange market to prevent sharp deviation in the exchange rate. In 1998, the Central Bank spent over $500 million to support the exchange rate, but the currency depreciated by 15% anyway that year.

As of 2002, the formal banking system consisted of 32 private commercial banks, three state banks, and several financial houses. Over 18 international banks are represented in one form or another. The five largest banks control approximately 45% of total assets. Several financial institutions collapsed in 1998 and 1999, prompting the government to bring banks into line with the Basel convention on minimum capital requirements. The government also hopes to make credit more available. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $2.7 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $6.3 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 10.6%.

When the Bank of Guatemala was established the Fund for the Regulation of the Bond Market was created to promote security issues. Nevertheless, Guatemalans still tend to prefer tangible investments, and there is no fully developed securities market. The National Stock Exchange of Guatemala (the Bolsa Nacional de ValoresBNV) opened in 1989 where shares from private companies in the country and other securities are traded. It is the largest of Guatemala's stock exchanges. The other two main exchanges, the Bolsa Nacional Global and the Bolsa Agrícola, merged to form the Corporación Bursatil in 1994. Three government bonds are traded on the exchanges, including CENIVACUS, CERTIBONO, and CDP. The volume traded in 1999 was $5.9 billion.

INSURANCE

In Guatemala, worker's compensation (the country's Social Security Plan) is compulsory, providing pension, disability pension, medical and hospital benefits, maternity benefits, and funeral expenses. In addition, the insurance market is entirely domestic, as foreign insurers are prohibited from issuing policies. Market rates, and the types of fire, auto, life, personal accident, and crime insurance are set by the superintendency. In 2003, the value of direct premiums written totaled $271 million, with nonlife premiums accounting for $222 million. The country's top nonlife insurer that same year was G&T, which had gross nonlife written premiums of $55.2 million.

PUBLIC FINANCE

Fiscal policy loosened after the 1985 elections, but tax reforms in 1987 failed to generate additional income, and governmental expenditures continued to grow. By 1990, the public sector deficit was 4.7% of GDP. The Serrano administration transformed the deficit of 1990 to a slight surplus in 1991 and a virtually balanced budget in 1992. The consolidated public sector deficit amounted to 1.2% in 1991 and 1.0% in 1992. Guatemala's public sector is among Latin America's smallest, and the tax burden is one of the lightest, at about 8% of GDP. The budget deficit grew to 2.5% of GDP in 1998, from only 0.50% in 1997, forcing the government to reevaluate its taxation and customs practices. Continued privatization and trade liberalization should boost public finances.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Guatemala's central government took in revenues of approximately $3.3 billion and had expenditures of $4.0 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$667 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 26.9% of GDP. Total external debt was $5.503 billion.

Revenue and Grants 21,694.4 100.0%
   Tax revenue 20,317.7 93.7%
   Social contributions 504.7 2.3%
   Grants 377.1 1.7%
   Other revenue 494.9 2.3%
Expenditures 26,210.9 100.0%
   General public services 5,819.7 22.2%
   Defense 1,235.1 4.7%
   Public order and safety 2,725.1 10.4%
   Economic affairs 6,265.3 23.9%
   Environmental protection 204.7 0.8%
   Housing and community amenities 2,948.3 11.2%
   Health 1,830.4 7.0%
   Recreational, culture, and religion 395.2 1.5%
   Education 4,625.1 17.6%
   Social protection 162 0.6%
() data not available or not significant.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, budgetary central government revenues in millions of quetzales were 21,694.4 and expenditures were 26,210.9. The value of revenues in millions of US dollars was $2,732 and expenditures $3,275, based on a market exchange rate for 2003 of 7.9408 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 22.2%; defense, 4.7%; public order and safety, 10.4%; economic affairs, 23.9%; environmental protection, 0.8%; housing and community amenities, 11.2%; health, 7.0%; recreation, culture, and religion, 1.5%; education, 17.6%; and social protection, 0.6%.

TAXATION

The corporate income tax rate in Guatemala is 31% of net income. However, companies operating there have a choice between two payment regimes: a general withholding regime, and an optional tax regime. Under the General regime, a monthly 5% tax on gross income is made. Under the optional regime, a quarterly payment at the 31% corporate rate is made on net taxable income. In addition, there is a 2.5% asset tax that is applied to the previous year's income or net assets. The asset tax is credited against the corporate income tax. An industrial development law provides tax exemptions for new industries. There is also a 3.5% tax on all foreign exchange transactions. Only income earned from Guatemalan sources is taxed. Capital gains, like the corporate income tax, offer two payment regimes: a general withholding regime; and an optional tax regime. Under the first, a 10% monthly withholding rate is applied, while under the second, a quarterly 31% rate is used. Dividends from resident companies are exempt from tax if the income tax was paid out of the income that was distributed as dividends by the distributing company. Otherwise a 10% withholding tax is applied.

The progressive personal income tax schedule has a top rate of 31%. Nonresidents pay a flat 31% rate, while income from employment and professional services is charged at the progressive rate. Other taxes include property taxes, and inheritance and gift taxes. Excise taxes are levied on beverages, cigars, tobacco, gasoline, vehicles, and airline tickets. Royalties are taxed at 31%.

Guatemala's main indirect tax is a 12% value-added tax (VAT) that is applied to most transactions. However, basic foodstuffs, sales of some low-cost housing and certain financial services are exempt. Exports are zero-rated.

CUSTOMS AND DUTIES

Guatemala requires licenses for the importation of restricted goods, including pharmaceuticals, basic food grains, milk, coffee beans, and armaments. As a member of the Central American Common Market CACM, Guatemala adheres to a common tariff classification system as well as a common customs code and regulations. Duties are stated as both specific and ad valorem. Import duties are generally minimal, ranging from 5 to 15%. Imports of agricultural products that exceed the quota have higher rates. There is also a 12% value-added tax (VAT) that is collected at the port of entry.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

There are no general requirements for local participation nor any restrictions on repatriation of capital. Guatemala's major diplomatic interests are regional security and, increasingly, regional development and economic integration. Guatemala participates in several regional groups, particularly those related to trade and environment. Foreign investor interest in Guatemala picked up with the signing of peace accords in 1996 and deregulation of the electric and telecommunications sectors. Structural reforms, such as the privatization program and trade liberalization measures, will add to investor appetite, but substantial investment in infrastructure and training the workforce is needed. As of the first quarter of 1997, the government had invited bids for 12 oil exploration and production contracts. Oil production increased by 250% between 1992 and 1998.

In 1998, Guatemala passed the Foreign Investment Law, reducing the barriers to foreign investment. But investment was still restricted to minority ownership of domestic airlines and ground transport. Incentives are available for the forestry, mining, tourism, and petroleum sectors. There are also eight free trade zones. The Foreign Investment Law had also removed limitations to foreign ownership of domestic airlines and ground transport companies in January 2004. There were also plans within the government to form mining legislation in 2005 that would encourage foreign investment.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Guatemala's economic development policy is to create rural employment through the provision of investment incentives. Such enticements include inexpensive financing by government institutions, free assistance and technical support, and preferential treatment to use government facilities and institutions for guidance. The government has initiated a number of programs aimed at liberalizing the economy and improving the investment climate. After the signing of the final peace accord in December 1996, Guatemala was well-positioned for rapid economic growth. Growth in the late 1990s was led by development of petroleum mining and refining.

The country's economy is commanded by the private sector which generates about 85% of GDP. The public sector is small and shrinking, with its business activities limited to transportation, and several development oriented institutions. Problems hindering economic growth include illiteracy and low levels of education; inadequate and underdeveloped capital markets; and lack of infrastructure, particularly in the transportation, communications, and electricity sectors. The distribution of income and wealth remains unequal. The wealthiest 10% of the population receives almost one-half of all income; the top 20% receives two-thirds of all income.

Tax reform was one government objective in 2003, as was reform of the financial services sector, liberalizing trade, and overhauling public finances. Drought and low coffee prices harmed the economy in 200102, and caused malnutrition among the poor in rural areas. In 2003, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a nine-month, $120-million Stand-By Arrangement to support Guatemala's economic program through March 2004. In 2003, the government was targeting the fiscal deficit, aiming to control inflation, and working toward putting into place a new legal framework for the financial sector. The country was also improving transparency in government, and working to strengthen governing structures themselves.

A tax reform was passed in June 2004 to supplement the rolledover 2003 budget. Corporate income tax was changed, and excise duties on alcohol were levied. Further, a new corporate tax (the Impuesto Temporal de Apoyo a los Acuerdos de PazIETAAP) was made to support peace agreements. This replaced the agricultural and mercantile business tax (Impuesto sobre Empresas Mercantiles y AgropecuariasIEMA) that was rejected by the Constitutional Court in January 2004 and left the government vulnerable to a shortfall in tax revenue if tax reform were not carried out.

In 2005, the IMF supported President Berger's economic policy program and declared that Guatemala was capable of dealing with potential balance of payments without a new Stand-By Arrangement. The Stand-By Arrangement that gave Guatemala a $120-million credit line ended in 2004.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

A social insurance system covers all employees, including agricultural workers. Public employees are covered by a separate program. The pensions for old age, survivorship, and disability are funded by a small contribution from employees, larger contribution from employers, and 25% covered by the government. Retirement is set at age 60. Cash and medical benefits are provided for sickness and maternity for employees of firms with more than five workers. Free medical care is provided for those receiving pensions. A grant for funeral expenses is provided.

Despite legal equality, women are paid significantly less than their male counterparts and are generally employed in low-wage jobs. Some domestic laws also discriminate against women. Women can be charged with adultery, while men can only be charged with a lesser crime. Sexual violence, including domestic violence, is widespread, and most cases go unreported. However, the number of complaints for both rape and spousal abuse has risen in recent years due to the nationwide educational program that has encouraged women to seek help. The police have little training to assist victims of sexual crimes. Sexual harassment is not illegal.

The constitution provides that all persons are free and equal in dignity and rights, and that the government must protect the life, liberty, justice, security, and peace of all citizens. Due to inadequate resources and corruption, however, the government is unable to enforce these provisions.

HEALTH

Guatemala's health care system consists of three sectors: public, private nonprofit, and private for-profit. Health coverage has been estimated to be low, with more than 40% of the population receiving no access to health care services. As of 2004, there were an estimated 89 physicians, 404 nurses, and 18 dentists per 100,000 people. Approximately 4.3% of GDP went to health expenditures. Among the chief causes of death are heart disease, intestinal parasites, bronchitis, influenza, and tuberculosis. Other major causes of death were perinatal conditions, intestinal infectious diseases, and nutritional deficiencies. Malnutrition, alcoholism, and inadequate sanitation and housing also pose serious health problems. Approximately 92% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 85% had adequate sanitation. Malaria rates are high. Guatemala does attempt to vaccinate its children and all routine vaccinations are paid for by the government. It is estimated that the poorest half of the population gets only 60% of the minimum daily caloric requirement. Some steps have been taken to fortify foods with daily vitamin requirements. Currently, sugar is being fortified with vitamin A and wheat flour will be fortified with iron.

The total fertility rate was 4.6 in 2000, a dramatic reduction from 6.5 in 1980. By 2000 the maternal mortality rate had fallen to 55 deaths per 1,000 live births, down from 200 in 1990. In 2005, the infant mortality rate was 32 per 1,000 live births and the overall mortality rate was an estimated 6.7 per 1,000 people as of 2002. The average life expectancy was 69.06 years in 2005. From 1966 to 1992 there were about 140,000 war-related deaths.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 1.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 78,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 5,800 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

Political violence and problems associated with poverty have left more than 200,000 Guatemalan children orphaned. Many suffer from psychological problems and malnutrition.

HOUSING

Many of the nation's urban housing units and most of its rural dwellings have serious structural defects and lack electricity and potable water. In 2002, there were about 2,483,458 housing units in the country. Most dwellings were detached houses. Over 50% of all housing are owner occupied. About 24% of all houses are of adobe walls; 50% use concrete blocks. Metal sheeting is the most common material for roofing. Most apartment buildings are made of cement block. The housing need in 2005 stood at about 1.6 million houses and overcrowding, especially in rural area hut dwellings and urban rented rooms, was prevalent.

As of 1995, there were about 205 "squatter" settlements inhabited by homeless or displaced persons. In these settlements, shelters are made of wood, cardboard, or mud, with zinc sheet roofs. A public housing program is supervised by the National Housing Bank. The Ministry of Public Health and Welfare is charged with the improvement of rural dwellings.

EDUCATION

Elementary education is free and compulsory for nine years although enforcement is lax in rural areas. Primary school covers six years of study, followed by three years of basic secondary school. Students may then choose a two-year diversified secondary program or a three-year technical school program.

In 2001, about 55% of children between the ages of five and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 87% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 30% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 66.5% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 30:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 14:1. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 12% of primary school enrollment and 74% of secondary enrollment.

Among Guatemala's six main universities, the Universidad de San Carlos, in Guatemala City, is the most important center of higher learning. The others include Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Universidad Francisco Marroquin, Universidad Mariano Galvez, Universidad Rafael Landivar, and Universidad Rural. In 2003, about 9% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 69.1%, with 75.4% for men and 63.3% for women.

As of 1995, public expenditure on education was estimated at 1.7% of GDP.

LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS

There are three notable libraries in Guatemala City. The National Library, with about over 350,000 volumes, has collections of Guatemalan and other Central American books and newspapers. The General Archives of Central America has a 100,000-item collection of documents for the three-century colonial period, when Guatemala was the administrative center for the Central American area. The library of the Geographical and Historical Academy of Guatemala (30,000 volumes) is of special value to researchers. The Central American Industrial Research Institute maintains the largest technical library in Central America (36,000 volumes). The Institute of Nutrition in Central American and Panama in Guatemala City maintains an important collection of public health documents. The University of San Carlos library has 205,000 volumes. There are about 64 public libraries that are supervised through the National Library. Another 29 public libraries are sponsored by the Bank of Guatemala.

The Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (1948) in the capital has an excellent collection of Mayan artifacts, and the Colonial Museum in Antigua contains colonial paintings, woodcarvings, iron and leatherwork, and sculpture. Also in the capital are the National Museum of Fine Arts, the National Museum of History, the Museum of the National Palace, the Popol Vuh Archaeological Museum, and the Center for Conservation Studies, founded in 1981.

MEDIA

Except for a few privately controlled facilities, the government owns and operates the postal, telephone, and telegraph services. The Guatemalan Telecommunications Enterprise provides international radiotelegraph and radiotelephone service. In 2003, there were an estimated 71 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 131 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

As of 2000 there were 130 AM and 487 FM radio stations. In 2001, four of the most prominent television stations were all owned by the same Mexican citizen, who has a political preference for the FRG. In 2003, there were an estimated 79 radios and 145 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 14.4 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 33 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 50 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

There were three major daily newspapers in 2004, all published in Guatemala City. They were (with orientation and 2004 circulations): Prensa Libre (moderate liberal, 110,000), Siglo Veintiuno (moderate, 56,000), and La Hora (moderate liberal, 18,000).

The constitution provides for free speech and a free press, though journalists admit that in certain cases fear of reprisals or government pressure leads to self-censorship.

ORGANIZATIONS

Artisans', consumers', service, and savings and credit cooperatives are grouped in four federations. The major employers' organizations are the General Farmers' Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Industry, and the National Coffee Association.

The Academy of Geography and History of Guatemala promotes the study of Guatemalan history, geography, and culture. There are several associations dedicated to research and education for specific fields of medicine and particular diseases and conditions.

National youth organizations include the Association of University Students, associations of Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, youth rotary clubs, and Junior Achievement of Guatemala. Sports associations promote amateur competition in such pastimes as hiking, football (soccer), tae kwon do, and squash. Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs and Kiwanis International, are also present. The Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity are active in Guatemala.

TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION

All visitors need a passport and may need a visa depending on nationality. Tourism has rebounded since Guatemala's return to civilian rule in 1986. In 2003, approximately 880,223 tourists arrived in Guatemala. There were 17,519 hotel rooms in 2002 with 44,579 beds and an occupancy rate of 47%. Guatemala's main tourist attractions are the Mayan ruins, such as Tikal; the numerous colonial churches in Guatemala City, Antigua Guatemala, and other towns and villages; and the colorful markets and fiestas.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily expenses of staying in Guatemala City at $200. Other areas were estimated at $156 per day.

FAMOUS GUATEMALANS

The Rusticatio Mexicana, by Rafael Landívar (173193), represents the height of colonial Guatemalan poetry. Outstanding figures of the romantic period were philologist Antonio José de Irisarri (17861868); José Batres y Montúfar (180944), the author of Tradiciones de Guatemala and many poetical works; and José Milla y Vidaurre (182282), a historian and novelist and the creator of the national peasant prototype, Juan Chapin. Justo Rufino Barrios (183585) became a national hero for his liberal, far-reaching reforms between 1871 and 1885. Enrique Gómez Carillo (18731927), a novelist and essayist, was perhaps better known to non-Spanish readers during his lifetime than any other Guatemalan author. Twentieth-century novelists include Rafael Arévalo Martínez (18841975), Carlos Wyld Ospina (18911956), and Flavio Herrera (18951968). The novelist and diplomat Miguel Ángel Asturias (18991974) was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1967.

Mario Cardinal Casariego (b.Spain, 190983) became the first Central American cardinal in 1969. Among the better-known Guatemalan political personalities of the 20th century are Col. Jácobo Árbenz Guzmán (191371), president during 195154, and Gen. Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes (18961982), president during 195863. Alfonso Portillo Cabrera (b.1951) served as president from 2000 to 2004. Óscar Berger (b.1946) succeeded him. Rigoberta Menchú (b.1959) won the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign against human rights violations and for the rights of indigenous peoples.

DEPENDENCIES

Guatemala has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Calvert, Peter. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Latin America. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

Dosal, Paul J. Power in Transition: The Rise of Guatemala's Industrial Oligarchy, 18711994. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1995.

Giannakos, S.A. (ed.). Ethnic Conflict: Religion, Identity, and Politics. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2002.

Health in the Americas, 2002 edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2002.

Hendrickson, Carol Elaine. Weaving Identities: Construction of Dress and Self in a Highland Guatemala Town. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995.

Jones, Oakah L. Guatemala in the Spanish Colonial Period. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994.

Maya Cultural Activism in Guatemala. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996.

Perera, Victor. Unfinished Conquest: The Guatemalan Tragedy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

Poverty in Guatemala. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2004.

Stoll, David. Between Two Armies in the Ixil Towns of Guatemala. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.

VanKirk, Jacques. Remarkable Remains of the Ancient Peoples of Guatemala. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996.

Woodward, Ralph Lee. Guatemala. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio, 1992.

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Guatemala

GUATEMALA

Republic of Guatemala

Major Cities:
Guatemala City, Antigua

Other Cities:
Amatitlán, Chichicastenango, Chimaltenango, Chiquimula, Cobán, Esquipulas, Flores, Huehuetenango, Mazatenango, Puerto Barrios, Quezaltenango, San José, Zacapa

EDITOR'S NOTE

This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated June 1996. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.

INTRODUCTION

GUATEMALA is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Its more than nine million inhabitants live in the highlands, the tropics, and the central plateau. Almost half of them are pure-blooded descendants of the Maya Indians, whose civilization flourished throughout much of Guatemala before the Spanish conquest in 1523.

Modern, comfortable Guatemala City, the capital, contrasts sharply with the rural interior. That area is characterized by Mayan ruins, mile-high Lake Atitlán, the ancient Indian cultures of Chichicastenango and Huehuetenango, and colonial Antigua, the proud capital of the country until it was leveled by two disastrous earthquakes in 1773. Guatemala has survived a turbulent history of dictatorships, political unrest, and economic instability, and is now pursuing a comprehensive plan for national development.

MAJOR CITIES

Guatemala City

Guatemala City, the capital, is a busy metropolis, and despite air pollution, dust in the dry season, and mud during the wet season, it is a fairly clean place. The colorful native dress of the large Indian population adds charm and uniqueness to this interesting city. Guatemala City (its full name is Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala la Nueva) is located slightly southwest of the country's geographical center at an altitude of about 5,000 feet, and is built on a long, narrow plain completely surrounded by hills and mountains. It is the largest city in Central America, with a population of 2.7 million (2000 est.).

The older buildings are Spanish-style, but starkly modern structures are rising rapidly. Residential districts are spreading beyond the town's outskirts, with newer homes either modern or Spanish colonial in design. Downtown Guatemala City's streets are narrow and, despite one-way traffic, congestion is bad and parking difficult. Several new shopping centers away from the city's center are gaining rapid popularity. Streets in the newer residential and business sections are relatively wide, attractive, and less congested.

The city has a number of interesting old churches. Large daily markets, the main source of fresh fruits and vegetables, are also centers for a variety of native textiles, blankets, and some pottery. The large block-size relief map of Guatemala, the National Palace, the Archeological Museum, and the Mayan ruins on the outskirts of the city are sightseeing attractions. Parks are always full, especially on Sundays and holidays. Aurora Zoo is small, but worth seeing.

In spite of the thousands of foreign tourists who stream through the city every month and the multinational, intercultural mix of residents, the city maintains a calm tolerant aura of well-being. Although some nightlife is available, Guatemala City is not a nighttime city, and quietly finishes most days well before midnight.

The present city is the third permanent capital of Guatemala. It was founded in 1776 after Antigua was destroyed by earthquakes. An earthquake destroyed Guatemala City in 1917, but it was rebuilt on the same site. Guatemala City suffered less than did the countryside from the February 4, 1976 earthquake which killed 27,000, injured 76,000, and left more than one million homeless.

The level of living for Americans in Guatemala City is generally equal to that of a small U.S. city, but the cost of living is similar to that in Washington, DC. The American community, comprising some 6,500 persons in the capital and perhaps 1,000 elsewhere, is the largest single foreign group. The foreign community also includes much smaller German and British colonies.

Religious Activities

Roman Catholicism is the principal religion, and Catholic churches in the capital and throughout the country are staffed by native and foreign clergy in about equal numbers. Two of the churches, Villa Guadalupe and San Agustin are run by the American Maryknoll and Franciscan Fathers. Protestant services in English are offered by the interdenominational Union Church in Guatemala City and also by Episcopal, Lutheran, and Church of Christ congregations. Three Jewish congregations, the Sephardic, Orthodox Ashkenazi, and a Reform group, hold regular services.

Education

The private educational system in Guatemala City is considered fairly good. Most schools require a birth certificate, a certification of good health, a vaccination certificate, and a transcript of education records. Although many private elementary and secondary schools operate in Guatemala, most American children attend the American or the Mayan School. Calvert System materials are not necessary, since these materials are provided by those schools using the system.

The American School (Colegio Americano) offers kindergarten through secondary school instruction. Despite its name, it is a private Guatemalan school with American administrators and some American teachers (the enrollment in 1991 was 1,600, of which 160 were American children). Accelerated courses are available in all grades for students planning to enter university or who will be transferred to other areas in the fall. Classes are conducted in both English and Spanish and students can elect to be taught in either language. Quality of instruction at all grade levels is considered adequate.

The secondary school is accredited by the U.S. Southern Association of Schools and Colleges. The number of American teachers usually averages 25% of the total faculty. Athletic activities consist of softball, water polo, track and field, basketball, baseball, soccer, volleyball, and swimming. Other extracurricular activities include drama, dance, choral and instrumental music, yearbook, newspaper, literary magazine, computers, and field trips. An intramural and playground recreational program is stressed. Bus transportation to and from school is provided at nominal cost.

The school year runs from mid-January through mid-October, with vacations during Holy Week and at midyear. The school is located on 52 acres of land in a residential area just outside the city. Facilities include an audiovisual room, auditorium, science labs, two computer labs, cafeteria, covered play area, gymnasium, swimming pool, and a 28,000-volume library. The mailing address is Apartado Postal 83, Guatemala City, Guatemala. U.S. mail may be sent in care of the U.S. Embassy, Guatemala, APO Miami, Florida 34024-5000.

The Mayan School (Colegio Maya) offers instruction for nursery through grade 12. It is a cooperative school sponsored by parents, administered by an elected board of directors, and fully accredited under the U.S. Southern Association of Schools and Colleges. The director and principal are American, as are at least 50% of the teachers and staff. The enrollment in 1991 was 340, almost equally divided among American, Guatemalan, and third-country nationals. General curriculum is taught in English with one class period daily in Spanish. Instruction provided in all grades is considered adequate. Art, physical education, and computer science may be elected. Extracurricular activities include drama, computers, yearbook, newspaper, field trips, and photography. Athletic activities comprise basketball, volleyball, baseball, and other organized sports. Playground equipment is also available for smaller children. Bus transportation is provided by the school.

The school year runs from the end of August to the beginning of June, with vacations at Christmas and Easter. The school is located on 12 acres of land about six miles from the city. Facilities include an audio-visual room, science and language labs, infirmary, cafeteria, a computer room, and a 10,200-volume library. The mailing address is Apartado Postal 2-C, Guatemala City, Guatemala. U.S. mail may be sent to APO 34024, Miami, Florida.

Recreation

Spectator events include frequent national and international soccer matches, bicycle and car races, and local wrestling. Baseball and softball are increasing in popularity and can be played year round. Joggers can be seen often here, and several organizations sponsor races throughout the year. Although Guatemala City has only two facilities, bowling is popular, with several regular city leagues and frequent national and Central American tournaments.

Golf courses and tennis courts are available for either membership or public use, as are several outdoor and indoor pools. About two hours from Guatemala City, on the Pacific coast near the port of San José, is a large hotel with both fresh and salt-water pools. Ocean swimming on this coast, unfortunately, is not only dangerous because of strong under-currents and occasional sharks, but also rather unpleasant because of the rough black sand, rocks, and narrow, limited "beach" areas. Caribbean beaches are lovely, almost virginal, territory, but not easily accessible.

Surf and deep-sea fishing are enjoyed on either coast where tarpon, barracuda, shark, sailfish, giant ray, red snapper, bonito, and jackfish are common. Lakes and rivers provide freshwater fishing.

Near Guatemala City, the volcanos Pacaya (8,345 feet), Fuego (12,851 feet), and Agua (12,307 feet) attract climbers and offer a rewarding view of both coasts on clear days. Pacaya, which is gently active much of the year, provides the unique opportunity for climbers to stand on one peak and view close at hand the lava activity on another. Climbing parties are organized during the dry season.

Wild game, such as deer, wild turkey, dove, geese, pheasant, duck, jaguar, and boar, is still plentiful in various parts of the country. Hunting is prohibited in most of Guatemala and hunters should obtain permission to hunt on private land.

Guatemala offers many opportunities for sight-seeing, as well as for sport. Lake Atitlán is two-and-a-half hours from Guatemala City by car over a good but winding road. Atitlán is generally considered the most beautiful lake in the country and is visited as part of the "must" excursion to Solola and Chichicastenango. Three large volcanos are nearby. Encircling the shores of the lake, 5,500 feet above sea level, are 12 Indian villages named after the Twelve Apostles. These villages can be reached by launch from the hotel area. Several good tourist hotels are located on the lakeshore in the town of Panajachel. Swimming and boating are pleasant pastimes.

Tikal, largest and one of the oldest of the ancient Mayan cities, is located in the midst of a dense tropical rain forest in the Department of Petén, in the northeast section of Guatemala. Due to daily flights and occasional special tourist or charter flights, these magnificent ruins, formerly almost inaccessible to the traveler, are now within a short flying time of Guatemala City. Overnight accommodations with meals are available at either of two adequate but non-luxury hotels.

The highland and northern jungle regions of Guatemala, difficult to reach because of poor or no roads, offer a complete change of scene and atmosphere. The towns of Flores and Sayaxche are the jumping-off points for jungle trips. Trips can be arranged by air and jeep to the sites of Mayan ruins, and bus service is usually available to many remote villages. Airline service is furnished to about 20 points within Guatemala. The road-building program is gradually opening up previously inaccessible regions, and tourist traffic is increasing.

Visiting Indian communities throughout the country during their various patron saint festivals offers unique opportunities to experience the flavor of the Guatemalan heart-land and its hospitable people. These fiestas, which usually begin a few days before the actual patron saint's day, are usually characterized by special dances, processions, and a profusion of decorations, as well as firecrackers, native marimba or other instrumental music, and often a lively market. There are no limits, outside those of good taste, to taking photographs.

For those who want to become acquainted with Guatemala, the country, and its customs, the Trekkers Club offers frequent group trips at minimum cost. The club is international in membership. Meetings are held one evening a month at the Union Church with featured speakers, movies, and/or slide showings. Trips are usually planned for weekends. Members share the responsibilities for organizing and leading the excursions, as well as serving on the board of directors.

Guatemala is a friendly country, and most Americans establish fine and lasting friendships with Guatemalans. Many Guatemalans speak excellent English, having been educated in the U.S., and many others are studying English at the Instituto Guatemalteco-Americano de Cultura (IGA) and other institutions. Americans usually find ample opportunity for social contacts, both private and official, with Guatemalans. Social contacts between the American colony and other foreign colonies are frequent and interesting.

The American Society is an organization of U.S. citizens living in Guatemala. Membership includes official personnel, members of the business community, and others. The society endeavors to improve Guatemalan-American relations on the local level and performs an important welfare function. The group also sponsors several social functions each year, including an annual Fourth of July picnic and a children's Christmas Party, and holds bridge and craft classes for members. Other clubs include a Rotary Club, Lion's Club, an English-speaking Masonic Lodge, an American Legion post, and a Toastmasters International Club.

While the primary aims of the American Chamber of Commerce of Guatemala are business and investment-oriented, the group has a large and active membership of firms and individuals who maintain a high community visibility. Their monthly luncheon meetings are frequently open to the public and their programs and service activities promote excellent, broad-based relationships. Membership fees are reasonable.

Entertainment

Entertainment is widely available in Guatemala City, and the scope is quite ambitious. Guatemala City boasts a 2,000-seat National Theater that hosts plays, dance performances, and concerts. The National Symphony Orchestra and the National Ballet each have a wide repertoire that is expanding each year. Several small city theater groups perform everything from musical comedy to serious drama. Guest artists and performers, often traveling under the sponsorship of the U.S. Government, are consistently well received, and add further dimension to the performing arts in Guatemala.

Recent U.S. films are shown at a number of theaters in Guatemala City, usually with Spanish subtitles. Mexican, Italian, French, and Argentine films are also featured, although less frequently. Guatemala City has several motion picture theaters, some of which are clean, modern, and as pleasant as any in the U.S.

Guatemala's art world is lively, especially the painting and sculpting. The binational center has at least one monthly exhibit, and frequent exhibits are held in the National Bank Building and smaller city galleries. Prices for art works, however, are comparable to those in the U.S. The National Palace displays examples of Spanish colonial art, and is decorated with vivid murals depicting the area's pre-colonial and Hispanic history. Several newer government buildings are decorated with facades of attractive modern sculpture.

One of the best sources of reading material is the IGA (the binational center) library, which has a collection of over 8,000 volumes in English and Spanish, and a bookstore offering current material. The American Club provides its members with a lending library of fiction and nonfiction best-sellers, and the Union Church maintains a library. Books are also available in commercial bookstores at import prices.

In addition to the first-class dining rooms of the major hotels, numerous good restaurants offer specialties ranging from typical dishes to French cuisine and Chinese food. Several popular restaurants specialize in "Argentine-style" beef. Many of the American fast food chains are represented in Guatemala.

Antigua

Antigua, previously named Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala, and sometimes called Antigua Guatemala, is located in the south-central part of the country, less than an hour by car from Guatemala City over a good road. Once a metropolis rich in beauty and culture, its mossy arches, well-preserved architectural ruins, and quiet parks and gardens are reminders of the magnificence of a bygone era.

Antigua was founded in 1542 by survivors of nearby Ciudad Vieja, which was destroyed by an earthquake and a flood. The city became the capital of Spanish Guatemala and, by the 17th century, was flourishing as one of the richest capitals of the New World, rivaling Lima and Mexico City. By the 18th century, Antigua's population was over 100,000; the university was the center of the arts and learning and the churches, convents, monasteries, public buildings, and houses were characterized by extreme luxury. Situated amongst three volcanoes (Agua, Acatenango, and Fuego), Antigua was destroyed by two earthquakes in 1773. The capital was moved to Guatemala City a few years later.

Today, Antigua is a picturesque city of ruins and old, restored homes. Buildings are characterized by Spanish facades, patios, and arcades. With a population over to 30,000, it is also a commercial center in a rich coffee-growing region. Now a major tourist center, Antigua has good, attractive hotels, one with a swimming pool, and all well-geared to tourist traffic. Shopping in Antigua is considered delightful. Spectacular festivities are held here during Holy Week. Those planning to visit during this period should make hotel reservations well in advance.

Visitors to Antigua will delight in its many interesting churches and landmarks. The Cathedral of San José, built between 1543 and 1680, was a magnificent structure, featuring 16 chapels, 60 cupolas, vaulted archways, high naves, and excellent paintings and sculptures. The facade and much of the wall structure stand today, along with the ruins of several domes. Excavation in 1935 revealed crypts beneath the cathedral. One is open to visitors and contains an altar, crucifix, and statues of saints. The conquistador of Guatemala, Don Pedro de Alvarado, is buried beneath the cathedral in an unidentified tomb. The present Church of San José was made from two of the original 16 chapels, which were restored in 1854. The cathedral was damaged in the 1976 earthquake, but has been reconstructed. Other interesting churches include La Merced Church, with lacy white stonework on its facade; and San Francisco, covering two square blocks, with its huge bell that tolls annually one stroke for each year of Guatemala's independence.

A few mansions, built during the colonial era, have been restored. Casa Popenoe, the House of Bells (converted into a shop), and the House of Lions all feature an austere outside wall encircling patios that contain fountains and gardens.

Ciudad Vieja (Old City) is about four miles from Antigua's central plaza, near the base of the volcano. The city was destroyed when it was engulfed by the eruptions of the volcano, Agua, in 1541. Parts of the city have been excavated. The church, built in 1534, was excavated intact; the third story of the governor's palace, built in 1527, has been exposed, but the first two floors remain buried.

There are several interesting Indian villages in the Antigua area that are accessible by car. Santa María de Jesús is less than seven miles from the foot of Agua volcano. Horseback and hiking expeditions to the volcano originate here. Just below Santa María de Jesús on the mountain slope is San Juan del Obispo. It is the site of the palace and former retreat of Antigua's colonial bishop; the palace is currently being rebuilt. Known for its hand-woven textiles, the village of San Antonio Aguas Calientes is five miles from Antigua.

OTHER CITIES

Situated in the mountains of southeast Guatemala, the city of AMATITLÁN lies on the shores of Lake Amatitlán, 12 miles southwest of Guatemala City. The lake is badly polluted, however, and swimming is no longer safe. With a municipal population over 33,000, Amatitlán is the center of a popular weekend resort area for Guatemala City residents, and is particularly noted for its scenery. Beautiful vacation homes are built around the lake-shore and hot springs may be found throughout the region. Coffee and sugar plantations are also located in the area. Native skin divers find well-preserved relics of Mayan religious ceremonies that took place at the natural hot springs that empty into the lake. Fragments of pottery discovered on the bottom of the lake indicate that a cemetery of an ancient city could be buried in the silt.

CHICHICASTENANGO , about 90 miles west of Guatemala City, is the center of the Quiche Indian culture and a principal sight-seeing attraction. Located in the heart of the highlands at about 7,000 feet above sea level, Chichicastenango became the spiritual center of the Quiche following their defeat by Pedro de Alvarado in 1524. Often called Santo Tomás, the town is quaint and charming, with a main plaza connected by a maze of winding streets. It is the site of one of the most colorful markets in Central America. On market days, Thursday and Sunday, Chichicastenango is crowded with Indians in their colorful clothing. On Sundays especially, they practice their semipagan religious rites in the two ancient Roman Catholic churches on the main plaza. In the Dominican monastery, the famous PopulVuh manuscript of Maya-Quiche mythology was discovered. There are also several excellent collections of Indian relics, many of which are carved in jade.

CHIMALTENANGO is located 30 miles west of Guatemala City in the central highlands. This market center of over 30,000 was founded in 1526; today, its residents grow grains, sugarcane, and livestock. Brick-making is an important industry. Chimaltenango is noted for its church built on the Continental Divide, where water flows around the foundationhalf to the Pacific and half to the Atlantic.

CHIQUIMULA lies 70 miles east of Guatemala City on the Río San José. The city has been ravaged by earthquakes, especially in the late 1700s during the colonial period. A colonial church remains, in ruins. Chiquimula's hinterland produces fruit, tobacco, sugarcane, and cattle. The city is linked to the capital by road and railroad and has a population of approximately 42,600.

COBÁN is situated in a rich coffee-growing area about 60 miles north of Guatemala City. Although an all-weather road connects the city to the capital, it is more easily accessible by plane. The hillside church, El Calvario, built in 1559, is located just outside of Cobán. Indian villages are also nearby and are known for their silverwork. Tourist attractions near the city include ancient Mayan pyramids and the Lanquin Caves, a series of underground grottoes stretching nearly 250 miles. The population of Cobán is approximately 23,000 (1989 estimate).

The town of ESQUIPULAS , located 75 miles east of Guatemala City, is known for its church that contains the figure of the Black Christ, revered by the Indians. Each year, more than one million pilgrims from Central America and Mexico visit the Black Christ. The six-foot image of Christ, completed in 1594, is made of balsa wood. The population of municipal Esquipulas is about 18,800.

Once a stronghold of the Itzá Indians, FLORES is located in a vast tropical jungle area in northern Guatemala. The town, with a population of about 14,000, is on an island in Lake Petén Itzá and is an export center for chicle, rubber, sugarcane, and lumber. It is accessible by road or plane but, during the rainy season, mud and flooding make driving hazardous.

HUEHUETENANGO is an old mining city on the slopes of the Altos Cuchumatanes Mountains, 75 miles northwest of Guatemala City. The name means Place of the Ancients, and ruins of an ancient Indian settlement called Zaculeu are located nearby. Lead, copper, and silver are mined in this city, which is also a major trading area for the local Maya Indians. Corns, beans, and potatoes are grown near the city. The estimated population of Huehuetenango is 37,200. The main Pan-American Highway is close by.

In the southwest, 60 miles southwest of Guatemala City, lies MAZATENANGO. This commercial and manufacturing city provides a link between Pacific ports and the interior. Coffee, sugarcane, cacao, fruits and, especially cotton, are major crops. Mazatenango is connected to Guatemala City by road and railway.

PUERTO BARRIOS is located in eastern Guatemala, about 150 miles northeast of Guatemala City on the Bay of Amatique, an arm of the Caribbean's Gulf of Honduras. Named for Guatemalan politician Justo Rufina Barrios, Puerto Barrios is the capital of Izabel Department and the country's major port. Leading exports are coffee and bananas. Puerto Barrios had a population of 38,000 (1989 est.), is the terminus of the International Railways of Central America, and also is the eastern seaport for El Salvador. The city sustained heavy damage from the earthquake of 1976.

QUEZALTENANGO is Guatemala's second largest city, located in the western highlands about 75 miles west of Guatemala City. It can be reached in about three-and-a-half hours by highland route over the Pan-American Highway, which is paved all the way and generally in good condition. A mountain town at about 7,600 feet, it has a cool, invigorating climate and clean air. Its interesting old market offers excellent textiles and handicrafts. The city also has a multilevel shopping center. The development of hydro-electric power has helped Quezaltenango become one of the Central America's leading industrial cities. Principal industries in the city include mills, breweries, and textile factories. As the site of the ancient Quiche kingdom of Xelaju, Quezaltenango is also noteworthy for its hot sulfur baths and mineral springs. Many of Guatemala's best-known scholars, musicians, and writers have lived in the city. The population is approximately 90,000.

SAN JOSÉ , a commercial port on the Pacific Coast, is two hours from Guatemala City over a paved road. The nearby beaches of Chulamar, Likin, and Iztapa offer surf bathinglimited, however, by a strong undertow at certain hours, and occasional sharks. The beaches are black volcanic ash, which is extremely hot in direct sun. Water-skiing, swimming, and fishing are possible on the canal and river that empty into the Pacific near Iztapa. Deep-sea fishing excursions can be arranged. Deer, wild pig, duck, and dove are also hunted in this area. The population is about 18,000.

ZACAPA is the capital of Zacapa Department in the eastern region, 25 miles from the Honduras border. This old community grew fast in the late 19th century with the completion of the Puerto Barrios-Guatemala City railroad. It now has approximately 34,000 residents. A principal railway junction, Zacapa is known for its cheese and cigars. Growers from the hinterland ship their products to the city; yields include corn, beans, sugarcane, and livestock. The 1976 earthquake caused extensive property damage.

COUNTRY PROFILE

Geography and Climate

Guatemala is the most northern and populous of the five Central American countries. Occupying 42,042 square miles, it is about the size of Tennessee. It is bordered on the north and west by Mexico, on the southeast by Honduras and El Salvador, on the east by Belize and the Caribbean Sea, and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. Guatemalan coastlines cover about 200 miles on the Pacific Ocean and 70 miles on the Caribbean.

The country is roughly divided into four geographic regions: the central-western highlands, the low northern plateau which is largely jungle, the southern volcanic regions of the Sierra Madre, and tropical coastal lowlands. The temperate mountain regions are the most densely populated.

Guatemala City's rainy season is May through October and its dry season, November through April. Temperatures are generally moderate during both seasons, ranging from an average low of 53°F in January to 60°F-85°F in April. Frost and snow are unknown, and flowers bloom year round.

Rainfall is heaviest from June through October; the annual average is approximately 52 inches. The wet months can cause mildew damage to clothing, shoes, luggage, and upholstered furniture. Frequent airing and the use of heating units in closets helps to prevent mildew. Long-stay travellers should consider bringing portable dehumidifiers. During the dry season, days are clear, and the sun is hot at midday with chilly to cold mornings and evenings. During these months it is dusty, foliage turns brown, grass and shrubs wither, and gardens must be watered.

Guatemala has 33 volcanoes, 4 within view of the city. Although most are inactive, Pacaya, about 27 miles south of Guatemala City, erupts occasionally with lava flows to nearby localities. Fuego, about 30 miles from the city, periodically produces impressive displays visible from Guatemala City.

Earth tremors are common. In 1976, a devastating earthquake struck Guatemala. Some 27,000 people were killed and over 1 million left homeless. Damage was greatest in areas with adobe housing. The modern sections of Guatemala City suffered light-to-moderate damage, but most of the city has been repaired. Before 1976, the last major earthquake to cause considerable damage occurred in 1917.

Population

The 2000 estimated population was 12.7 millionsome 3 million of whom live in the capital and its suburbs. The annual population growth rate is about 3%. An estimated 43% of the nation's population is culturally Indian. The remainder, which includes Caucasians and people of mixed descent, speak Spanish and wear Western dress. Most of the small black population lives in the Caribbean coastal area.

Spanish is the principal urban language. It is necessary to have at least a basic knowledge of Spanish for day-to-day living. At least four major Indian languages and over 20 dialects are predominant in the villages where Spanish is not widely spoken. Many Indians, descendants of the Mayans, maintain ancin art and Indian culture is the profusion of native textiles. Guatemala's 23 ethnolinguistic groupings exhibit their different roots by distinctive costumes. The intricately hand-woven or embroidered women's "huipiles," or blouses, are famous among textile connoisseurs throughout the world. Many are trying to protect both family/community weaving enterprises and this dying art itself from machines churning out lesser quality tourist wares. The modern Ixchel Museum, built according to U.S. specifications, on the campus of Francisco Marroquin University, not only engages in this endeavor, it houses permanent and changing exhibits of indigenous textiles, and conducts educational programs.

Although many village men have adopted Western dress, interesting men's costumes can still be seen in the Lake Atitlan region, Chichicastenango, and in the Province of Huehuetenango.

Theater consists mainly of semiprofessional organizations whose performances follow no regular season. Productions are held in small theaters, the Binational Center, or the city's modern, attractive National Theater complex. The School of Theater at the Universidad Popular and the Teatro de Arte Universitario at San Carlos University also offer performances throughout the year.

The Guatemalan scientific community is based in the universities, the National Meteorological Service, and the Academia de Geografia e Historia. Several research centers formed under the auspices of the Central American Common Market, including the Central American Nutritional Research Center, are also headquartered in Guatemala City. Most scientific effort is directed toward economic development.

The San Carlos University, the national campus that enrolls upwards of 70,000 students for minimal fees, was founded in 1676. All lectures are in Spanish. The Faculty of Humanities corresponds to a school of liberal arts in the U.S., offering courses in philosophy, education, and literature. Courses in the sciences, engineering, medicine, and law are also available. Beginning in the 1960s, four smaller private universities, Rafael Landivar, Mariano Galvez, Francisco Marroquin, and Del Valle, opened their doors to students and have continued to grow: the four universities sponsor 20-odd "extension" campuses across Guatemala's departments.

For decades, scholars, researchers, students, and culturally oriented tourists have been lured to Guatemala for its rich anthropological and archeological attractions. Epigraphers stand awed before the secrets of Tikal, now a national park; historians delightedly burrow through the treasures of the Archivo General de Centro America and the Centro de Investigaciones de Mesoamerica (CIRMA) in Antigua.

Commerce and Industry

Guatemala's GDP for 2001 was estimated at $20.0 billion, with real growth slowing to approximately 2.3%. After the signing of the final peace accord in December 1996, Guatemala was well-positioned for rapid economic growth over the next several years, though a financial crisis in 1998 limited its ability to achieve its potential growth rates.

Guatemala's economy is dominated by the private sector, which generates about 85% of GDP. Agriculture contributes 23% of GDP and accounts for 75% of exports. Most manufacturing is light assembly and food processing, geared to the domestic, U.S., and Central American markets. Over the past several years, tourism and exports of textiles, apparel, and nontraditional agricultural products such as winter vegetables, fruit, and cut flowers have boomed, while more traditional exports such as sugar, bananas, and coffee continue to represent a large share of the export market. Because of Guatemala's continued reliance on coffee exports, the recent downturn in world prices has contributed to Guatemala's relatively slow growth over the past 2 years.

The United States is the country's largest trading partner, providing 35% of Guatemala's imports and receiving 27% of its exports. The government sector is small and shrinking, with its business activities limited to public utilities--some of which have been privatized--ports and airports and several development-oriented financial institutions.

Guatemala was certified to receive export trade benefits under the United States' Caribbean Basic Trade and Partnership Act (CBTPA) in October 2000, and enjoys access to U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits. Due to concerns over serious worker rights protection issues Guatemala's benefits under both the CBTPA and GSP were reviewed in 2001. After passage of labor code reforms in May 2001, and the successful prosecution of labor rights violations against banana union workers dating to 1999, the review was lifted.

Current economic priorities include: Liberalizing the trade regime; Financial services sector reform; Overhauling Guatemala's public finances; Simplifying the tax structure, enhancing tax compliance, and broadening the tax base.

With 60% of all Guatemalans living in poverty, the country suffers from some of the worst mortality, illiteracy, malnutrition, and other social indicators in the hemisphere region. Providing $30-$50 million in annual assistance, USAID is working to address key constraints to Guatemalan development through the promotion of sustainable resource management, smaller and healthier families, improved basic education, enhanced trade and labor rights, and the sustained exercise of inalienable rights.

The headquarters for USAID's regional programs is also located in Guatemala. Through its regional programs, USAID promotes sustainable development throughout Central America, working with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, the Nutrition Institute for Central America, the Central American Commission for Environment and Development, the Permanent Secretariat of Central American Economic Integration, the Tropical Agricultural Center for Research and Education, the Inter-American Institute for Agricultural Cooperation, and a wide variety of nongovernmental organizations.

Transportation

Local

Buses, all private and independent, are the primary mode of public transportation within and between Guatemalan cities. In the capital, service is frequent, but most of the buses are old, smoke spewing, and noisy, and their drivers careless. Because of controversial increased prices and severe overcrowding on private buses, the city has recently inaugurated the use of converted semitrailers, with a capacity of 200 passengers, to offer express service along specified routes. Few buses are scheduled after 9 pm or 10 pm.; "ruleteros" (minibuses) pick up and discharge passengers along major streets until midnight. Taxis are available on a 24-hour basis, but are expensive and must be called by telephone or picked up at one of the several stations throughout the city. Use only recommended taxi companies such as those contracted by hotels. Since taxis are not metered, the cost should be settled before any trip. Tipping, though not expected, is always appreciated.

Regional

Interurban bus lines connect most towns and villages within the country. Although serviceable, these buses are often crowded and uncomfortable. Numerous tour agencies are available that offer comfortable transportation and guides at a reasonable cost; however, large-capacity rented vehicles and travel agency vans have been targeted by armed highway bandits.

Guatemala is a country brimming with natural beauty and color, and travel into the countryside is a welcome respite from city living. Much of the country cannot be visited safely by surface transportation. Roadblocks are occasionally set up by thieves posing as military or police officers, and travel after sunset anywhere in Guatemala is extremely dangerous.

All-weather paved highways traverse the country between Mexico, El Salvador, and both seacoasts. Other roads, which are gradually being improved, vary from two-lane, gravel topped hard bed to single-lane dirt. During the dry season, most unpaved roads are passable, though often dusty and rough. In the rainy season mountain roads are treacherous because of poor markings, frequent landslides, and washouts. Driving to Mexico City takes about 3 days via the coastal route entering Mexico at Tapachula. San Salvador is about 4 1/2 hours by car from Guatemala City.

Drivers in Guatemala take more risks than those in the U.S.; one must drive defensively whether within the city and faced with cars coming in the opposite direction on a one-way street or along the highways where large semitrailers will pass on a blind curve at high speed. Guatemalan law is strict with all parties in an accident, and cars are often impounded.

Infrastructure problems common to many Third World countries are present in Guatemala. Main roads to the larger towns and cities are paved and generally fair though plagued by deep potholes, washed-out bridges, and, during the long, rainy season, sometimes impassable because of mudslides and large fallen boulders. The major road to El Salvador, along which is located one of the schools attended by Mission children, suffers from erosion and is continually undergoing construction efforts.

Bus service is available twice daily between Guatemala and El Salvador. Bus companies offer service from Guatemala to Mexico and Honduras but may require a bus transfer at the borders. Travelers are urged to check with the Regional Security Office regarding guerrilla and criminal activity in the areas through which they plan to drive before planning any international travel. When traveling from El Salvador, the border crossing at Las Chinamas, El Salvador/Valle Nuevo, Guatemala, is preferred. When entering Guatemala from Honduras, the border crossings are at either El Florido or Agua Caliente. With all cross-border travel, travelers need plenty of time to complete border crossing formalities, which can be lengthy, in order to travel to a major town before dark. For group trips, chartered buses are available and border crossings are expedited.

Major car rental agencies, in convenient locations, offer car rental options, but rates are high, between $35-$50 a day for subcompact models. Insurance, both collision and liability, is required.

Tourism has recently increased between Guatemala and Costa Rica, with both the Costa Rican airline, LACSA, and Colombian airline, SAM, offering daily flights.

American Airlines provides three daily flights to and from Miami and one flight to and from Dallas each day. United offers daily service to and from Los Angeles, and Continental has one flight per day to and from Houston. The national airline, AVIATECA, has daily service between Guatemala City and Miami and Guatemala City and Los Angeles, and four flights per week to and from New Orleans, via El Salvador. AVIATECA also provides connections to Belize. TACA airlines offers a flight to Washington, D.C., and New York on a daily basis and provides connections to other Central American capitals. KLM, Iberia, and several other Latin American carriers also provide international connections.

Communications

Telephone and Telegraph

GUATEL, the government-owned and operated communications facility, provides internal and worldwide telephone service. Domestic rates are reasonable with the monthly usage rate averaging Q5. In 1995, a residential long-distance night call to Washington, D.C., cost $8 for 3 minutes and $2 for each additional minute. Direct-dialing is available 24 hours daily although service may be intermittent. An AT&T telephone calling card is useful in Guatemala. AT&T offers a more favorable rate on long-distance calling when the AT&T network is utilized. MCI and Sprint accounts also are operable in Guatemala City. The demand for new telephone lines and installations throughout the city has increased dramatically. GUATEL is currently in the process of modernizing their telephone network, which should facilitate the installation of new residential lines.

Telegraph service is also available through GUATEL to all worldwide locations. Internal usage is popular and fairly reliable. Western Union also provides a money transfer service to and from Guatemala.

Radio and TV

Guatemala City has over 65 Spanish radio stations. Thirty-four AM and 31 FM stations feature U.S.-style music, mostly of the pop hit parade variety. Some classical and jazz music programs are also available. News broadcasts can be heard three times daily on approximately 10 stations. Shortwave reception of VOA is good during the early morning or late evening hours. BBC programs (in English or Spanish) are also heard.

Five color TV channels, one government owned, broadcast a daily menu of mixed programs, including Spanish-dubbed U.S. series shows, feature films, Mexican soaps ("Telenovelas"), and music revues. Two channels provide regular news programs in Spanish three times daily, at 1 pm, 6:30 pm, and 9:45 pm, and one channel offers an early morning news broadcast from 7 am to 8 am. More than two dozen cable TV operators serve Guatemala City and offer a full range of U.S. programming in English. All major networks, with the exception of PBS, are available through cable, many transmitting 24 hours.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Four morning and one afternoon papers are published daily in Spanish, including one official gazette. The two largest circulating dailies are Prensa Libre and El Grafico, both with ample international wire service news coverage. A weekly news magazine, Cronica, covers Guatemalan economic, political, and cultural news. English-language air express editions of the Miami Herald, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today circulate at major hotels and newsstands. Latin American editions of Newsweek and Time appear promptly, and many popular English-language magazines and books are available throughout the city, although prices are double the U.S. price. Two locally published English-language news weeklies, Central American Report and This Week, contain regional political analyses. They are available only by subscription. Two, more widely distributed, weekly newspapers published locally, the Guatemala News and Guatemala Weekly, provide additional current event coverage for the English-speaking community.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Good, reliable medical services are available in Guatemala City. Competent and reputable doctors, dentists, ophthalmologists, and veterinarians are available. Most have studied or been trained in the U.S. or Europe and speak English. Specialization is common in most major fields and one or more physicians are available in each.

The major hospitals, clinics, and diagnostic laboratories are adequately equipped. The local supply of medicines, which can usually be bought without prescription, is adequate, but some may be difficult to obtain. If you take prescription drugs, bring a supply with you and arrange to have them sent to you as needed. If special medication is needed, bring a supply and a copy of the prescription.

Community Health

Guatemala City is about 5,000 feet above sea level. Healthy individuals rarely suffer ill effects from the altitude, though precautions must necessarily be taken to guard against overexposure to the sun's harmful rays. Guatemala's standards of sanitation are fair. Generally, health conditions in Guatemala City are good.

Diarrhea and amoebic and bacillary dysentery are not uncommon. These illnesses, as well as paratyphoid and typhoid fever, can be contracted from unpurified water and uncleaned vegetables. Hepatitis is endemic to the region. Safe drinking water remains a problem, but many Guatemalan communities are developing adequate supply and purification systems. Tuberculosis is the most serious contagious endemic disease and is prevalent in a large percentage of the Indian population. Although sanitariums exist, control of those infected with tuberculosis is inadequate, and the annual death rate from the disease is high. Smallpox has been eradicated.

In the coastal and other lowland areas of Guatemala, as well as nearby Lake Amatitlan, malaria is prevalent. Although a malaria eradication program is in operation, the incidence of the disease has increased significantly in the past few years. When traveling to these areas, appropriate prophylactic medication should be taken.

It is important to have window screens in residences to keep out disease-carrying mosquitoes and houseflies, and to eliminate or minimize breeding places in the immediate vicinity. The use of insect repellant is also recommended during times of the year when mosquitoes are more prevalent, and when traveling to lowlands and coastal areas.

Preventive Measures

Guatemala City's water supply is sporadic. During the dry season, water pressure occasionally drops so low that there is little or no water in many homes; in some instances, city water is turned off completely. Processed drinking water is delivered to the door and may be purchased in 5-gallon bottles for Q7.50. Most Americans use this or boil tap water to make it safe for drinking.

Although several dairies deliver pasteurized milk to homes, for consistency in quality and freshness, powdered or long-life shelf milk is recommended.

Locally purchased fresh fruits and vegetables should not be eaten raw, unless they can be peeled. Cooking is the only sure way to disinfect fresh fruits and vegetables. Another effective method is to immerse them in actively boiling water for one minute. Leafy vegetables treated in this manner will show only slight wilting on the outermost leaves, and the palatability of other sturdier vegetables and fruits will not be affected. An alternative method is to use a Clorox bleach solution for soaking fruit and vegetables.

NOTES FOR TRAVELERS

Passage, Customs & Duties

Flights to Guatemala can be arranged from the U.S. on the Guatemalan government-owned airline, AVIATECA, or on TACA. In February 1991, a new Guatemalan airline, Aeroquetzal, began U.S. service between Los Angeles and Guatemala City. Good connections also are provided by other carriers. Some expatriates drive to Guatemala from the U.S. if they have the time and stamina. Drivers are cautioned that during the rainy months (May-October) the roads in Guatemala can be treacherous because of washouts, landslides, and earth tremors that create temporary impasses. No American passenger ships come to Guatemala, and travel by ship via Panama and air to Guatemala is not a commonly used route.

A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and depart Guatemala, even though many people, including some U.S.-based airline employees, mistakenly believe otherwise. U.S. citizens returning to the United States from Guatemala are not allowed to board their flights without a valid U.S. passport. Therefore, U.S. citizens are strongly advised to obtain a U.S. passport before departing the United States. Certificates of Naturalization, birth certificates, driver's licenses, and photocopies are not considered acceptable alternative travel documents. While in Guatemala, U.S. citizens should carry their passports, or photocopies of their passports, with them at all times. Minors (under 18) traveling with a valid U.S. passport need no special permission from their parents to enter or leave Guatemala. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for a stay of 90 days or less (that period can be extended upon application). An exit tax must be paid when departing Guatemala.

U.S. citizens living in or visiting Guatemala are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City and obtain updated information on travel and security in Guatemala. You may now informally register with the American Citizen Services Section via e-mail to [email protected]. Your registry information should include your complete name, date and place of birth, U.S. passport number, itinerary, contact information in both the United States and Guatemala. You may wish to attach a scanned copy of your U.S. passport and/or e-mail it to your own address or to someone in the United States. This will enable you to easily retrieve a copy of your passport to facilitate a replacement.

The latest security information is available from the Embassy, including its website (see below). The Consular Section is open for citizens services, including registration, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon and 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. weekdays, excluding U.S. and Guatemalan holidays. The U.S. Embassy is located at Avenida La Reforma 7-01, Zone 10; telephone (502) 331-1541 during business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), or (502) 331-8904 for emergencies during non-business hours; fax (502) 331-0564; Internet web site-http://usembassy.state.gov/guatemala/.

Pets

All pets must be covered by certification of rabies inoculation. In addition, an import license issued by Guatemalan authorities is required for any pet arriving in Guatemala.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

The time in Guatemala is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) minus six (or equivalent to Central Time in the U.S.).

The Guatemalan unit of currency is the quetzalq, which is on a par with the U.S. dollar. U.S. paper currency is widely accepted.

Various systems of weights and measures are used in Guatemala. Pounds and kilograms (2.2046 pounds) are the most common weight units, but more exotic units such as the quintal (100 pounds) are also used frequently. Gasoline is sold by the gallon (U.S.), but milk is sold by the liter. Common units of distance include centimeter, inch, foot, yard, vara, meter, kilometer, mile, and legua.

Disaster Preparedness

Guatemala is a geologically active country. Therefore, visitors should be aware of the possibility of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and the need for contingency measures. Occasional eruptions, such as those in January-February 2000 of Pacaya Volcano near Guatemala City, have forced evacuations of nearby villages and briefly closed Guatemala City's international airport. The major earthquakes in El Salvador in early 2001 caused damage, injuries, and deaths in Guatemala, albeit to a much lesser extent than her neighbor to the east. Both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Guatemala are vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms from June through November. Mudslides and flooding during the May to November rainy season often kill dozens of people and close roads. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.

LOCAL HOLIDAYS

Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Mar/Apr. Holy Thursday*

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Holy Saturday*

Mar/Apr. Easter Sunday*

May 1 Labor Day

June 30 Army Day

Aug. 15 Feast of the Assumption

Sept. 15 Guatemala Independence Day

Oct. 20 Revolution Day

Nov. 1 All Saints' Day

Dec. 24 (from noon) Christmas Eve

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Dec. 31 (from noon) New Year's Eve

*Variable

RECOMMENDED READING

The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Barry, Tom. Guatemala: A Country Guide. Albuquerque, NM: Inter-Hemispheric Education Resource Center, 1990.

Brosnahan, Tom. La Ruta Maya: A Travel Survival Kit. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 1991.

Canby, Peter. The Heart of the Sky: Travel Among the Maya. New York: Harper Collins Publications, 1992.

Cummins, Ronald. Guatemala. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens Children's Books, 1990.

Fauriol, Georges A., and Eva Loser. Guatemala: A Political Puzzle. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publications, 1988.

Frommer's Budget Travel Guide Series. Costa Rica, Guatemala, & Belize on 25 Dollars-a-Day, 1991-92. New York: Prentice-Hall General Reference & Travel, 1991.

Greenberg, Arnold, and Diana Wells. Guatemala Alive. 2nd ed., New York: Alive Publications, 1990.

Harvard Student Agencies, Inc. Staff. Let's Go, 1992: The Budget Guide to Mexico Including Belize & Guatemala. Rev. ed., New York: St. Martin Press, 1991.

Jonas, Susanne. The Battle for Guatemala: Rebels, Death Squads, and U.S. Power. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991.

Smith, Carol A., ed. Guatemalan Indians & the State: 1540 to 1988. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1990.

Vlach, Norita. The Quetzal in Flight: Guatemalan Immigrant Families in the United States. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1992.

Wright, Ronald. Time Along the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala, & Mexico. New York: Grove Press, 1989.

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Guatemala

GUATEMALA

Republic of Guatemala

República de Guatemala

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

LOCATION AND SIZE.

Located in Central America at the southern tip of Mexico between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Guatemala has a total area of 108,890 square kilometers (42,042 square miles), slightly smaller than that of the state of Tennessee. Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico all share land boundaries with Guatemala that total 1,687 kilometers (1,048 miles) in length, while Guatemala's coastline along the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea totals 400 kilometers (249 miles). Guatemala City, the national capital and home to 2 million Guatemalans, is located in south-central Guatemala, less than 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Pacific Ocean.

POPULATION.

As of July 2000, Guatemala's population was estimated at 12,639,939. There are approximately 484 persons to every square kilometer of the country (1,253 persons per square mile), making Guatemala the second most densely populated nation in Central and South America. (El Salvador is the only nation in the region with a higher population density.) Guatemala also has an extremely high rate of population growth; if the population were to continue at its current growth rate of 2.9 percent per year, the total number of people living in the nation would double in 24 years. Population projections estimate that Guatemala's population will reach 16,295,000 by 2010. The fertility rate in Guatemala is the highest in Latin America, with an average of 5 children born to each Guatemalan woman during her lifetime. Although the Guatemalan government has officially recognized that the national birth rate is high, it has done little to encourage family planning or birth control among its populace. The reluctance of the Guatemalan government to institute population control policies can be partly attributed to its strong ties with the Catholic Church, while resistance to family planning among the general populace can be partially imputed to the civil unrest of the 1980s, which provoked a distrust of foreign-initiated programs (including family planning programs).

In stark contrast to most Latin American countries, Guatemala has a populace that is concentrated mainly in rural areas. Only 39 percent of its population is urban (though urbanization is accelerating). The sizeable rural population is linked to the large indigenous (Amerindian) presence in Guatemala; persons descended from the Mayan Indians account for 56 percent of the nation's total population, making Guatemala the Latin American nation with the largest indigenous population relative to total population. The other 44 percent of the national population is mestizo (of mixed Amerindian-Spanish descent, also called ladino in local Spanish). Despite the concentration of the population in rural areas, close to 80 percent of physicians are located in the metropolitan area, making health care difficult to access for rural inhabitants. Additionally, water supply and sanitation services reach 92 percent and 72 percent of the urban population respectively, while in rural areas they reach marginally more than 50 percent of the population. These facts betray a broader phenomenon of rural disadvantage that extends to the economic, political, and social realms of Guatemalan life.

OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY

Known for its varied landscape, fertile soil, and tropical climate, Guatemala has its economic roots in the coffee and banana plantations that started up around 1860 and remained the major focus of economic activity for almost a century. Until 1950, coffee and bananas alone accounted for 90 percent of the value of Guatemala's total exports. After World War II, the practice of commercial farming spread, and the production of cotton, sugar, and livestock became an integral part of the national economy. Augmented by mining and manufacturing activity, the economy continued to expand and diversify during the 1960s and 1970s. The debt crisis of the 1980s led to sinking export prices, inflation , and declining product values, but the Guatemalan economy gained new life in the 1990s, particularly after the signing of the 1996 Peace Accords that put an end to Guatemala's 36-year internal conflict. Currently, Guatemala has the highest GDP in Central America and continues to enjoy strong growth rates. The major forces acting upon Guatemala's economy at present are the fluctuating international demand for primary resources, the actions of political elites, and the implementation of liberalization measures (including privatizations , trade and investment reforms, and tax reform).

Guatemala has achieved a fairly good balance between the agricultural, manufacturing, and service sectors of its economy. In agriculture, it is the third largest exporter of coffee in the world and a major exporter of bananas and sugar, while its manufacturing sector depends chiefly on the apparel, construction, mining, and energy industries. The service sector, which composes the largest segment of Guatemala's GDP, embraces telecommunications, tourism, and other technological enterprises. Guatemala, though not a net exporter of petroleum, is the only oil-producing nation in Central America, and the possibility of investing more intensively in oil and natural gas in the future is a viable one. Unfortunately, the infrastructure needed to develop Guatemala's natural resources is sorely lacking at present, with low telephone density, scarce access to electricity, and poor road networks outside of Guatemala City posing impediments to entrepreneurial investments.

The macroeconomic indicators often used to measure a nation's economic status speak well of Guatemala's economy. Inflation and currency devaluation have remained steady (excepting the debt crisis of the 1980s, when they were pushed beyond acceptable levels), the foreign debt of US$4.4 billion is manageable, and the GDP has grown steadily for the last decade, following a period of stunted growth during the 1980s. The political climate is also ripe for foreign investment, as the war between the Guatemalan government and the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) guerrilla group came to an end in 1996. Recent privatizations have lessened the role of the government in the Guatemalan economy, easing the financial burden on the state and providing an immediate source of income from the sale of the previously state-owned enterprises. Furthermore, the government has adopted plans to dollarize its economy, following the path taken by other Latin American countries, including Ecuador, El Salvador, and Panama. Dollarization (the adoption of the U.S. dollar as the official monetary unit by another country) is generally viewed in a positive light by foreign investors, as it holds interest rates to lower levels and promises to eliminate devaluation.

While macroeconomic indicators paint a hopeful picture of Guatemala's economic situation, the conditions that exist within the nation provide far less cause for optimism. Poverty and inequality are endemic in Guatemala and are linked to the nation's other socio-economic problems, which include an inadequate education system, widespread health and sanitation deficiencies, and high rates of crime and violence. These issues have contributed to political turmoil in the past, and while Guatemala is no longer plagued by civil war, there is still great unrest and tension within the nation that could threaten political and economic stability in the future. International agencies and foreign governments are dispensing aid to Guatemala more willingly now than during the nation's civil war, but these funds are not large enough to promote change in a system that is deeply rooted in unequal distribution of land and wealth.

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION

Guatemala is a constitutional democratic republic that is divided into 22 departments and governed by a 3-branch system, consisting of the executive, legislative, and judicial. The legislative branch consists of the National Congress, a 1-house legislature composed of 116 members, while the judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Court of Justice. The president serves as both the chief of state and the head of government and has the authority to appoint departmental governors and cabinet members.

Current president Alfonso Portillo of the Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG) was elected by a landslide victory in his December 1999 campaign against candidate Oscar Berger of the National Advancement Party (PAN). The FRG and the PAN are the 2 major political parties active in Guatemala today; a third party, the New Nation Alliance (ANN), plays a minor role in the nation's political races. The PAN (the party to which Portillo's predecessor Alvaro Arzú belonged) is conservative and business-oriented while the FRG is conservative and populist, at least according to the platform Portillo used to win the presidency. Both parties support rigorous economic programs that put emphasis on fiscal discipline and macroeconomic stability, but Portillo and the FRG also support policies that work to the benefit of economically disadvantaged Guatemalans. Among the policies proposed by Portillo during his first year as president were a hike in the minimum wage, the decentralization of political power, and others with similar populist themes. However, Portillo's proposals were not met with a spirit of cooperation in Congress, and little has been done to better the situation of the poor since he took office in early 2000.

The Guatemalan government traditionally has not exerted a great amount of control on the economy through regulations or other interventionist measures, preferring to keep its involvement minimal, as evident in the fact that the private sector generates more than 85 percent of the GDP. This hands-off approach has been bolstered by recent decisions to privatize the state telecommunications, electric generation, and electric distribution companies, as well as by new policies that lift restrictions and regulations on trade and investment in Guatemala. The government has also been frugal in its support of public and social programs; Guatemala's education and health systems leave much to be desired, often to the detriment of disadvantaged Guatemalans.

The tax system is currently undergoing reform as the Guatemalan government attempts to make taxation a more lucrative tool. In 1996, Guatemala's tax revenue accounted for just 8 percent of its GDP, putting it at the second lowest rate in the Western hemisphere. The peace accords signed in 1996 called for an increase that would bring tax revenues up to 12 percent of the GDP by 2000, providing greater funding for social programs. Unfortunately, the parties who signed on to this fiscal pact (government, social organizations, and business leaders) have not all given it their steadfast support, and tax revenues for 2000 only amounted to slightly more than 10 percent of the GDP. Among the taxes on which Guatemala relies for revenue are customs duties , sales taxes, and excises on liquor and tobacco. Additional taxes under discussion for reform or implementation in Guatemala currently include the value-added tax and new taxes to be applied to a variety of industries.

INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS

An underdeveloped infrastructure is one of the main obstacles to investment and economic development in Guatemala. Public and private investment is disproportionately concentrated around Guatemala City because of the lack of infrastructure connecting the capital to other regions of the country. Not only is much of Guatemala's 12,795 kilometer (3,519 mile) highway network in poor condition, its electricity and telephone density is low, and all of its television stations and newspapers are concentrated in Guatemala City. Additionally, 3 ports (Champerico, Puerto Barrios, and San Jose) handle the bulk of Guatemalan exports, and La Aurora Airport is the only national airport with full capacity for both freight and passengers. These facilities are approaching their breaking points and will need to be expanded soon in order to keep up with growing trade and travel. Overall, major renovation of the country's infrastructure is necessary if trade is to continue uninterrupted.

Telephones are not as available in Guatemala as would be desirable for the purposes of business and general efficient communication. There were 430,000 main telephone lines installed in Guatemala in 1997, but this number still left Guatemala trailing several Central American countries in proportionate terms. Use of cell phones is growing at a remarkable rate, having increased by 2,047 percent between 1993 and 1997, while the number of regular phone lines in the nation increased by only 86.1 percent during the same span of time. In 1998, the government decided to privatize the state telephone company along with several other enterprises. So far, the privatization has not brought about as much progress in infrastructure as outside investors had hoped; the U.S. Department of State's FY 2000 Country Commercial Guide: Guatemala states, "It is not clear that the new owners of the recently privatized telephone company will undertake the investment needed to extend basic telephony to those areas currently underserved."

Electricity has also undergone significant changes due to recent privatizations. Both the major state electricity distribution company and selected assets of the state-owned electricity production company were auctioned off to private bidders in 1998, provoking anticipation of higher electricity prices but also feeding hopes of improved service, mainly among businesses and professionals.

ECONOMIC SECTORS

Guatemala's economy, while still largely dependent on the income and employment provided by the agricultural sector, has been successful in developing its manufacturing and service sectors, thereby remaining competitive within the global market. Among the products and

Communications
Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Guatemala 33 79 126 28.5 10 N/A 8.3 1.26 65
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Mexico 97 325 261 15.7 35 3.0 47.0 23.02 1,822
El Salvador 48 464 675 N/A 18 N/A N/A 1.17 40
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

services most important to Guatemala's economy are coffee, sugar, cotton, bananas, apparel, food processing, and tourism. Some of these industries date back to the early post-independence era, while others are just beginning to blossom. Tourism, for instance, was severely impeded until recently, when the Guatemalan peace accords were signed and the process of demilitarization commenced.

A look at Guatemala's economic sectors over the past thirty years shows that while there has been movement between the agricultural, industrial, and service sectors, that movement has not been uni-directional. Instead, the only well-established pattern seems to be the gradual decrease in agriculture's contribution to the GDP. This trend away from agriculture is generally viewed by development economists as a positive occurrence, since prices of agricultural products on the international market are subject to sharp, sudden declines and can create economic instability. Overall, the structure of Guatemala's economy is stable and fairly well balanced, providing it with a necessary foundation for expansion in the future.

AGRICULTURE

Although Guatemala is trying to expand its manufacturing activities to reduce economic dependence on agriculture, the agricultural sector is a crucial component of Guatemala's export and domestic economies, accounting for 23 percent of GDP (US$11 billion) in 1999 and employing 50 percent of the labor force (1.7 million workers).

COFFEE.

One of Guatemala's original commercial developments in the 19th century, coffee production is still of vital importance to the national economy. In 1998, coffee exports brought in US$586.3 million, almost double the amount of sugar, the next most profitable agricultural export. Guatemala's production of coffee is equally important in the global economy, as Guatemala is the world's third largest exporter of coffee. Because large-scale operations are needed to produce vast quantities of coffee for export, most Guatemalan coffee is harvested at large plantations along the southern border of the highlands.

SUGAR.

After coffee, sugar is Guatemala's most profitable crop, earning US$315.3 million on the world market in 1998. Sugar has also shown promise as an expanding industry in Guatemala, particularly because it can be produced in raw form or processed within the country prior to export, augmenting its value.

BANANAS.

Bananas remain one of Guatemala's top agricultural exports, grabbing US$190.4 million in revenue in 1998. Like other developing countries that export bananas, Guatemala has recently encountered problems on the international market, including declining prices and a European Union policy that places new restrictions on its imports of bananas. Additionally, conflicts between Guatemalan banana workers and the companies that contract them have led international fruit companies to move their headquarters from Guatemala to Ecuador, where labor is unorganized and therefore cheaper. All of these factors have contributed to the recent decline of the banana industry in Guatemala.

INDUSTRY

Industry in Guatemala, which includes food processing, publishing, mining, and the manufacture of textiles, clothing, cement, tires, and pharmaceuticals, comprises 20 percent of the GDP (US$9.6 billion) and employs about 15 percent of the total workforce (500,000 workers). After growing steadily during the 1960s and 1970s, manufacturing slowed during the debt crisis of the 1980s but picked up again during the 1990s.

TEXTILES AND APPAREL.

More than 80,000 Guatemalans are currently employed by the apparel industry, most of whom are young women. The apparel industry has experienced growth over the past decade, but international attention directed to the poor working conditions within apparel-for-export factories or maquilas has resulted in the closing of some major plants, including the Phillips-Van Heusen factory that used to be located in Guatemala. So long as labor remains cheap and accessible in Guatemala, the apparel industry is likely to continue expanding. The United States provides a sizeable market for Guatemala's apparel exports, importing more than US$1 billion worth of apparel in 1998 alone.

MINING AND OIL.

Combined with production of energy (mainly from petroleum), mining contributes roughly 3 percent of Guatemala's GDP. Antimony, copper, nickel, iron, and tungsten are all mined in Guatemala, though not in great quantities. Surveys of Guatemala's subsurface have revealed that the nation has a wealth of mineral resources, indicating that, given the right investment interest, mining could become a more prominent part of Guatemala's economy in the future. Guatemala, the only oil-producing country in Central America, has been extracting oil from its Petén Basin since the early 1980s, though it does not extract nearly enough to be a net exporter of petroleum.

SERVICES

TOURISM.

The service industry contributes the largest segment of Guatemala's GDP (57 percent, or US$27.3 billion) and employs about 35 percent of the nation's total workforce (1.2 million workers). While the service sector encompasses several different industries like retail , financial services, transportation, and computer services, the most profitable component is tourism. Because of its agreeable climate and diverse landscape, as well as its Mayan ruins, Guatemala is becoming a popular travel destination in the post-conflict period. In light of the high profit margins associated with tourism receipts, the government is making solid efforts to expand tourism and attract more foreign visitors to Guatemala.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

The United States, Latin America, and Europe are the most frequent destinations for Guatemala's exports, composing 51.5 percent, 26.6 percent and 11.3 percent

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Guatemala
Exports Imports
1975 .624 .733
1980 1.520 1.598
1985 1.057 1.175
1990 1.163 1.649
1995 2.156 3.293
1998 2.582 4.651
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

of the export market respectively in 1998. In addition to its membership in the Central American Common Market trade group, Guatemala also holds free trade agreements with Panama, Chile and the Dominican Republic. Guatemala exports a wide variety of products with a mainly agricultural base, while it imports goods of an industrial nature, including machinery, road vehicles and apparel. This combination of exports and imports reflects Guatemala's position as a developing country that must rely partially on outside advancements to sustain and promote industrial activities within its own economy. As Guatemala becomes more developed and expands its manufacturing sector, it should depend less on industrial imports from the United States and other developed nations.

Guatemala has consistently imported more than it has exported over the past 25 years, but this trend has sharpened over the past 5 years or so, with imports surpassing exports by significant margins and resulting in a considerable trade deficit . In 1998, Guatemala exported only US$2.582 billion worth of goods while importing US$4.651 billion worth. Increasing imports can be a sign that the Guatemalan economy is strong enough to afford large quantities of goods from abroad, but they can also throw off the stability of the nation's trade regime if not matched by growth in exports.

The unprecedented level of Guatemala's imports in 1998 might also be a result of the end of la violencia, or the civil war, in 1996. The political space created by the peace agreement may have encouraged deeper interaction between Guatemala and the global market and may have opened up new trade opportunities with economic players who had previously withheld their trade partnership as a political gesture.

MONEY

Despite its 36-year internal conflict (1960-96) that was characterized by political instability and mass killings, Guatemala maintained a functional economy throughout the second half of the 20th century. The

Exchange rates: Guatemala
quetzales (Q) per US$1
Jan 2001 7.8020
2000 7.7632
1999 7.3856
1998 6.3947
1997 6.0653
1996 6.0495
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

1960s and 1970s brought a healthy dose of economic development to Guatemala, resulting in impressive economic growth figures (average annual growth totaled 5.5 percent over the 20-year span of time). The 1970s in particular proved to be very important economic years, as Guatemala focused its attention on expanding the manufacturing sector in order to soften its dependence on agricultural exports. As a result, manufacturing expanded at an annual rate of more than 6 percent from 1970 to 1979. Like other Latin American countries, Guatemala was adversely affected by the foreign debt crisis of the 1980s; inflation grew to an average annual rate of 16.5 percent, and the nation's foreign debt tripled to more than US$4.7 billion. Nonetheless, Guatemala's economy staged a recovery in the 1990s that brought back healthy rates of growth and inflation. In 1999, the country experienced a mild recession , but the effects are expected to be temporary and surmountable.

The Guatemalan quetzal has never experienced a period of hyperinflation or intensive devaluation like many other Latin American currencies have encountered. Instead, the devaluation of the quetzal in respect to the U.S. dollar has occurred gradually; from 1983 to 2000, for example, the value of the quetzal dropped 70 percent, an average annual rate of slightly more than 4 percent. Despite the relative consistency the quetzal has experienced on the world market, Guatemalan officials are planning to dollarize the economy, eventually eliminating the quetzal in order to implement the U.S. dollar as the official national currency. The first step of the dollarization process took place on 1 May 2001, when the U.S. dollar was first allowed to circulate as legal tender. Guatemalan economists and government officials hope that by adopting the U.S. dollar, they can make Guatemala more attractive to foreign investors and effectively eliminate the phenomenon of currency devaluation. Dollarization should also encourage discipline within the banking sector, which, under the jurisdiction of the Superintendency of Banks, currently functions according to rather loose regulations and has encountered several bankruptcies.

POVERTY AND WEALTH

Although Guatemala enjoys the highest GDP in Central America, unequal distribution of wealth and rapid population growth within the nation have given Guatemala one of the highest poverty rates in Latin America. More than 75 percent of the national population lives below the poverty line, and the extent of poverty is even more severe among the rural and indigenous populations. In 1989, about 93 percent of the indigenous population in Guatemala were living in poverty and 91 percent in extreme poverty, whereas only 66 percent and 45 percent of the non-indigenous population were living in those respective conditions. Guatemala's income distribution is among the most unequal in the world, with the wealthiest 10 percent of the population owning nearly 50 percent of the national wealth and the poorest 10 percent owning less than 1 percent. As a result, there is a very small middle class in Guatemala, and political power rests almost exclusively with elite groups. Land, just like monetary wealth, is concentrated in the hands of the few, making it very difficult for poor rural workers to improve their financial situation, as the amount of land they own or have access to is minimal.

While the economic policies implemented during the 1990s in Guatemala produced manageable inflation rates and healthy economic growth, they did not bring about greater economic equality or help to reduce poverty. Economic reforms in Guatemala have been aimed at improving macroeconomic indicators, sometimes to the disadvantage of social spending, as with the reduction of the public sector deficit from 1990 to 1996, which was accomplished through spending cuts. Although some government leaders (such as current president Alfonso Portillo) have run for office on populist platforms, little has been done to improve the situation of the poorest segments of the population.

The poor in Guatemala do not have easy access to good health care, particularly because health-care facilities and experts are focused in metropolitan areas. This factor, combined with the negative health effects of pesticides and the low availability of drinking water and waste disposal services in rural areas, results in a higher

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Guatemala 1,371 1,598 1,330 1,358 1,533
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Mexico 3,380 4,167 4,106 4,046 4,459
El Salvador 1,779 1,596 1,333 1,378 1,716
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage
Share: Guatemala
Lowest 10% 0.6
Lowest 20% 2.1
Second 20% 5.8
Third 20% 10.5
Fourth 20% 18.6
Highest 20% 63.0
Highest 10% 46.6
Survey year: 1989
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

occurrence of health problems in rural areas than in urban centers. There are signs that the issue of health care has started to receive greater political and social attention in Guatemala. In 1996, about 13 percent of the government's budget was devoted to health, whereas in 1992 the amount allocated for health care was only 6.6 percent of the overall budget. Additionally, the government recently initiated a health sector reform to provide health services to all Guatemalans who currently lack access to health care; the minimum health services available under this plan include care of pregnant women, child health care, and emergency and disease care.

Education presents another problem for poor Guatemalans, as some parents call on their children to work long hours to contribute to the family income, preventing them from attending school. This phenomenon occurs most often in rural areas, where families engage in subsistence farming or work for larger landowners, and the amount of manual labor available determines a family's total income. Unfortunately, children who have to work instead of attending school miss out on the education that is almost always necessary for economic advancement. Although school attendance is compulsory for 6 years by government mandate, only 41 percent of school-aged children in Guatemala attend classes, and only 55.6 percent of the total population are literate.

WORKING CONDITIONS

The conditions under which most Guatemalans work are less than desirable and often in violation of Guatemalan law. According to the nation's labor laws, the minimum daily wage is US$3.00 for agricultural workers, US$3.30 for workers in commerce, US$3.38 for construction workers, and US$6.00 for specialized labor. The workweek consists of 44 hours for day-shift workers and 36 hours for night-shift workers. Overtime work is to be compensated with time-and-a-half pay, and children under the age of 18 are not to work overtime. In terms of workplace conditions, employers are to ensure healthy and safe environments for their workers by providing adequate bathroom facilities and on-hand medical care. If 25 percent of the employees at a given workplace request to organize a trade union, they have the right to do so freely.

Work conditions in Guatemala's agricultural and industrial sectors often fail to meet the government's specified requirements. More than 80,000 Guatemalans, most of them young women, work at maquilas (apparel-for-export factories), often in unsafe and unhealthy (not to mention illegal) conditions. Among the labor law violations common to maquilas are forced overtime, employment of children as young as 13 years old, and bathrooms that remain locked for most of the workday. Equally poor conditions exist for workers in the agricultural sector, where the need to meet daily quotas leads to the coercive employment of children as young as 6 years old by their parents, who do not receive compensation unless they reach the fixed quota. Much agricultural employment is seasonal and occurs at off-site locations, where housing facilities are generally poor; at some cotton plantations, the housing provided for workers consists of bare wooden constructions without bedding or furniture. Wages for agricultural and industrial workers often fail to meet minimum wage requirements, and average income is sometimes less than the cost of a basic food basket for a family of 5, meaning that wages are set at starvation levels.

Despite the treacherous conditions that exist for unskilled workers, fewer than 15 percent of all workers are unionized. This fact has much to do with the abuses that have been committed against trade union members and leaders over the past half-century. Military and civilian governments since the 1950s have held union organizations in contempt and have committed serious human rights abuses and "disappearances" against union leaders. Amnesty International has documented that between 1976 and 1996 (the final 20 years of Guatemala's internal war), thousands of trade unionists were tortured and killed, or "disappeared," because of their union activities. This hostile attitude towards labor organizations continues today and acts as a significant deterrent to trade union mobilization.

One major reason that work conditions are so poor and unions so weak is that work is hard to come by in Guatemala. While open unemployment affects about 7 percent of the population, total unemployment lingers around 37 percent; as a result, close to 1 million Guatemalans work in the informal economy , augmenting the formal economy's workforce of 3.5 million. Additionally, the culture of violence that developed during Guatemala's civil war has not yet been eliminated, so threats and coercion are common workplace elements. Not all forms of employment in Guatemala are undesirable; jobs in urban areas and in the service sector provide stable and healthy conditions and livable wages. Too often, however, working conditions do not correspond to the standards set by the Guatemalan government, and of the groups impacted by this disregard for labor laws, unskilled, rural workers suffer the gravest consequences.

COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

1524. Pedro de Alvarado of Spain invades Guatemala.

1528. Alvarado defeats Guatemalans, and Spanish rule begins.

1786. Spaniards separate Chiapas, Honduras, and Nicaragua from the province of Guatemala.

1821. Guatemala, along with Central America, declares its independence from Spain.

1823. Guatemala joins with other nations to form the United Provinces of Central America.

1840. Guerilla group led by Rafael Carrera overthrows president of United Provinces, resulting in the abolition of the federation.

1850s. Guatemala embarks upon a long period of un-democratic rule, marked by a series of dictatorships, military governments, coups, and insurgencies that continue until the mid-1980s.

1901. United Fruit Company establishes itself in Guatemala, becoming the first transnational corporation in the country.

1944. The "October Revolutionaries," a group of students, liberal professionals, and military dissidents, overthrow General Jorge Ubico's dictatorship.

1945. Guatemala joins the United Nations.

1948. Guatemala joins the Organization of American States.

1952. Communist Guatemalan Labor Party gains legal status and institutes agrarian reforms that distribute unused lands to peasants.

1954. U.S. CIA deploys "Operation Success" with help from domestic forces, invading Guatemala and overthrowing President Jacobo Arbenz.

1960. Rebel Armed Forces (FAR) forms; civil war over economic and land issues commences.

1966. United States sends in Green Berets and directs counterinsurgency campaign in Guatemala; Mano Blanca and other Guatemalan death squads form.

1970s. Manufacturing expands markedly in Guatemala, growing at an annual rate of 6.2 percent.

1978. United States bans the sale of arms to Guatemalan government.

1980. Spain breaks off diplomatic relations with Guatemala after a government massacre in which Indian protestors were burned inside of the Spanish Embassy. Debt crisis strikes Guatemala; high inflation and foreign debt accumulation ensue.

1981. Guatemalan army initiates counteroffensive, destroys over 400 Indian villages in 2 years.

1982. Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP), Organization of Armed People (ORPA), and Rebel Armed Forces (FAR) combine to form the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit (URNG). Efrain Rios Montt overthrows General Angel Anibal Guevara presidency.

1983. Military overthrows Rios Montt. United States resumes sale of arms to Guatemala.

1985. Marco Vinicio Cerezo is elected, becoming the first civilian president in 15 years. United States reinstates official economic and military aid to Guatemala.

1987. Central American Peace Accord is signed.

1990. United States again cuts off military aid and arms sales to Guatemala.

1991. Economic recovery begins; Guatemala regains healthy inflation rates and experiences consistent growth.

1994. Guatemalan government and guerrillas sign agreements on human rights, resettlement, historical clarification, and indigenous rights. United Nations Human Rights Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) is formed.

1996. Alvaro Arzú, member of National Advancement Party, is elected president. Guatemalan government and guerillas sign peace accord, ending 36-year conflict.

1997. URNG demobilizes and becomes political party.

1999. Alfonso Portillo, member of Guatemalan Republican Front, is elected president.

FUTURE TRENDS

Having finally negotiated an end to its decades-long civil war in December of 1996, Guatemala is currently attempting to construct a peaceful and democratic political environment that will foster greater economic growth and prosperity. This task has proven more difficult than anticipated, partly due to the vestiges of violence and distrust left over from the war and partly because of continuing problems with corruption, a weak justice system, and poor political representation. If such obstacles to functional democratic governance can be overcome and Guatemala can develop a stable and more attractive atmosphere for investment, diversification of exports and economic growth should follow. Even during the period of internal political turmoil from 1960-96, Guatemala's economy experienced growth and manageable inflation rates, suggesting that the opportunities proffered by peace and demilitarization could provide the necessary impetus for economic progress.

Even so, sustaining a healthy and growing economy will require more than the absence of internal conflict and the presence of a more democratic political culture. To achieve the economic stability necessary to be competitive within the global economy, Guatemala will have to exercise fiscal discipline, privatize some of its state-owned companies, liberalize its trade regime, reform its banking sector, and explore new options for production and export. A series of economic liberalization measures initiated under the Arzú administration (1996-99) introduced privatization and lifted restrictions on trade and investment, but the process of liberalization must be embraced and continued by current and future administrations in order to bring about economic stability and progress. In respect to new production and export options, the most promising prospects for economic expansion in Guatemala are the textile and apparel industries, as well as the non-traditional export industries of shrimp farming and cut flowers. Guatemala also has proven natural gas and oil reserves that could attract substantial amounts of capital from foreign or domestic investors.

Poverty and deep-seated inequality have been the most stubborn and devastating economic problems for Guatemala in the past, and they will likely continue to afflict Guatemala, even assuming economic growth and expansion on the national level. Unequal distribution of wealth and land within the country over time has led to the present dire scenario, in which more than 60 percent of the Guatemalan population subsist on less than US$2.00 a day. Because the current political system lacks representation on the left and is dominated by 2 conservative parties (PAN and FRG), the interests of the poor and underprivileged are not likely to receive due attention in the political arena until a viable left-of-center party forms. While some of the policies proposed by President Alfonso Portillo at the beginning of his term (2000-present) would have benefited the working class, they have not been passed into law because of lack of support in Congress. International agencies and foreign governments continue to provide aid to Guatemala for poverty relief and other development initiatives, but these funds are not large enough to significantly mitigate the effects of widespread poverty, unequal distribution of wealth, and a rapidly growing population. Unless Guatemala gives serious political attention to the issues of inequality and population growth, the economic future of Guatemalans will be bleak.

DEPENDENCIES

Guatemala has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Banco de Guatemala. "Guatemala: Algunas variables macroeconomicas, años 1950-1999." <http://www.banguat.gob.gt/ver.asp?id'/indicadores/hist03>. Accessed March 2001.

BASICS/USAID. "Guatemala: Country Achievement Summary."<http://www.basics.org/summaries/Guatemala.htm>. Accessed January 2001.

Canadian Foundation for the Americas. "Guatemala Under the FRG: Peace at a Crossroads." <http://www.focal.ca/images/pdf/guatemala.pdf>. Accessed March 2001.

Country Watch. "Guatemala: Economy." <http://www.countrywatch.com/files/069/cw_topic.asp?vCOUNTRY=069 &TP=ECO>. Accessed March 2001.

Pan American Health Organization. "Guatemala: Basic CountryHealth profiles, Summaries 1999." <http://www.paho.org/English/SHA/prflgut.htm>. Accessed February 2001.

Population Reference Bureau. "2000 World Population DataSheet: Central America." <http://www.prb.org/pubs/wpds2000/wpds2000_CentralAmerica.html>. Accessed March 2001.

USAID Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean. Latin America and the Caribbean: Selected Economic and Social Data. Washington, D.C.: USAID, 1999.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. "The World Factbook: Guatemala." <http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/gt.html>. Accessed February 2001.

U.S. Department of State. "Background Notes: Guatemala." <http://www.state.gov/www/background_notes/guatemala_0500_bgn.html>. Accessed March 2001.

Heidi Jugenitz

CAPITAL:

Guatemala City.

MONETARY UNIT:

Quetzal (Q). One quetzal is equal to 100 centavos. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, and 25 centavos, as well as paper bills in the amounts of 50 centavos and 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 quetzals.

CHIEF EXPORTS:

Coffee, sugar, bananas, fruits and vegetables, meat, apparel, petroleum, electricity.

CHIEF IMPORTS:

Fuels, machinery and transport equipment, construction materials, grain, fertilizers, electricity.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:

US$47.9 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).

BALANCE OF TRADE:

Exports: US$2.4 billion (f.o.b., 1999). Imports: US$4.5 billion (c.i.f., 1999).

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Guatemala

Guatemala

Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Guatemala
Region (Map name): North & Central America
Population: 12,974,361
Language(s): Spanish, Amerindian languages
Literacy rate: 63.6%
Area: 108,890 sq km
GDP: 18,988 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Stations: 26
Number of Television Sets: 1,323,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 102.0
Number of Radio Stations: 632
Number of Radio Receivers: 835,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 64.4
Number of Individuals with Computers: 130,000
Computers per 1,000: 10.0
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 80,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 6.2

Background & General Characteristics

In 2002, Guatemala boasted around 13 million people, more than half of whom are full-blooded Mayan Indians, many of whom could not speak Spanish, the official tongue. Two other groups included the ladinos (of European and Indian blood), and those of unmixed European origin, the latter controlling most of the country. Roughly two-thirds of the country is literate, with 60 percent speaking Spanish, and the remaining 40 percent one of the Amerind tongues, principally Kíché, Kaqchikel, Q'eqchi and Mam. Its religions included Roman Catholic, Protestant and traditional Mayan. Just to the south of Mexico, Guatemala occupies an area of 108,890 square kilometers (41,801 square miles).

The country is divided into a fertile coastal plain and the altiplano or highlands, where reside the majority of non-Spanish speaking Mayans. In 1996, a 36-year civil war between the Mayas and the government ended. In 2002, relationships between that government and its people, including the press, were still being adjusted.

Guatemala has four major daily Spanish language newspapers: Prensa Libre, El Periódico, Siglo XXI, all morning publicationsand La Hora, an afternoon paper. Also publishing are one minor daily tabloid, the somewhat sensational Nuestro Diario, as well as two weekly periodicals, Critica and Crónica. All exceptandCrónica are independent. The major independent newspapers regularly criticize the government and military as well as other powerful segments of Guatemalan society. They have published reports on alleged government corruption and/or drug trafficking, using sources such as human rights groups, clandestine intelligence, or left-leaning organizations like the news agency CERIGUA, which had to operate in Mexico for most of the guerrilla war, or the Centro para la Defensa de la Libertad de Expresión (Center for the Defense of Freedom of Speech). Both Critica and Crónica had been equally independent, but the latter was the target of an advertising boycott in 1998 and was forced to sell to a conservative owner. In 2002, Crónica reflected the new owner's right-wing philosophy, while Critica continued to be critical of the government.

Additionally, there was the English-language daily The Guatemalan Post, as well as the oldest surviving newspaper in Central America, the Diario de Centro America. However, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, Diario de Centro America was a semi-official paper that reported legal news only, and has lacked the readership of many other papers.

The relationship between press and state in the first decade of the twenty-first century came about as a result of a history in which journalists usually wrote what the party wanted. Journalists' independence was, in 2002, less than a decade old.

Historical Background

The first "journalists" in what is now known as Guatemala were Mayan dispatch runners, but the glory days of the Maya were long past when the Conquistadores arrived in the early sixteenth century. For reasons which have never been entirely clear, Mayan cities and temples were unoccupied, crumbling into decay and covered with jungle vegetation at Pedro de Alvarado's arrival.

In the post-conquest period, almost all Central America was controlled from Guatemala. In 1729, Gazeta de Goatemala became Guatemala's first newspaper, and only the second in the New World. It was little more than a propaganda sheet, allowed to express only opinions pleasing to governors, clergy, and crown. The press confined itself to official or Catholic pronouncements, local items, and information about Spain, with the journal's license dependent upon cooperation with the authorities. This began a history of cooperation between press and state in Guatemala, examples of which remain in recent times.

Guatemala City became the capital in 1776, and the nation gained independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. The early nation was an essentially feudal society, one in which the press continued primarily to serve the state, which was in effect a succession of large landowners, known as caudillos, or "old families."

In 1880 Diario de Centro America was founded, it is the oldest surviving newspaper in Central America. June 1922 saw the birth of El Imparcial, different from other papers in that it took an independent stance for many years, eventually drifting to the right until finally becoming a pro-government and anti-Communist organ as the Cold War heated up.

In the 1940s, events took a turn which had a decided impact upon the development of Guatemalan journalism. Revolution, political turmoil and mounting discontent in 1944 ushered in the era of Juan José Arévalo, a liberal president, and a freely elected government. Several newspapers from both sides of the political fence came into being, two of which still exist today, La Hora, which came into being in 1944, and Prensa Libre (1951). Something close to true freedom of the press prevailed and earned applause from many places. In the 1950 elections, Jacob Arbenz Guzmán won election as the country's president.

In 1953-54 the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency helped train and back an invasion of Guatemala launched from Honduras by a mercenary army. Although Guatemalans did not take up arms, the government lost the backing of the military and this led to Arbenz's relinquishing his office, which was seized by Castillo Armas. Guatemala gained a reputation as one of the world's worst human rights violators, and freedom of the press became non-existent.

The struggle became a 36-year-long civil war, and people who worked for newspapers were often caught in the crossfirein some cases, quite literallybetween government right-wing army troops and Mayan and/or communist guerrillas. Right-wing death squads killed or threatened to kill journalists; left-wing terror groups did the same. As an example of the entire war's effect upon the civilian population, consider the brief presidency of Jose Efraín Ríos Montt, whose counter-insurgency campaign resulted in about 200,000 deaths of mostly unarmed indigenous civilians. The military carried out many of these missions, according to the Historical Clarification Commission (CED), which estimated that government forces were responsible for 93 percent of the violations. The Archbishop's Office for Human Rights said that the military was responsible for around 80 percent of violations.

"During the long period of armed confrontation, even thinking critically was a dangerous act in Guatemala, and to write about political and social realities, events or ideas meant running the risk of threats, torture, disappearance and death," said the Historical Clarification Committee. La Nación reporter Irma Flaquer Azurdia and her son died during an ambush in 1980. Right-wing squads also have been blamed for the 1985 disappearance of U.S. journalists Griffith Davis and Nicholas Chapman Blake; in 1993, the founder and editor of El Gráfico, Jorge Carpio Nicolle, was ambushed and murdered by more than 30 hooded men. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has said that more than 29 journalists were killed for doing their jobs during the conflict. In 1995, the Inter-American Press Association reported that evidence from the crime scene of the Jorge Carpio Nicolle assassination had disappeared, further hampering the investigation. In another instance, Siglio XXI columnist Hugo Arce's criticism of the president allegedly caused Arce to be arrested and charged with possession of dynamite and drugs. In 1993, Robert Brown summed up the position of the press with these words: "Death threats, physical attacks with armed thugs, the burning of newspapers are done with total impunity."

The lines between journalism and politics in Guatemala often were blurred. For example, the assassinated Jorge Carpio Nicolle was not only a newspaper publisher but a candidate for several important political offices, and the same was true of his brother, Roberto. The Carpio and Marroquín families owned four of the eight dailies in 1982; Clemente Marroquín not only founded La Hora and was arguably the best-known journalist in the country, but also was vice president from 1966 to 1970. The founder of La Nación, Roberto Giron Lemus, was a presidential press secretary; General Manager Mario Ribas Montes of El Imparcial, who was assassinated in 1980, had been ambassador to Honduras.

During the guerilla war, several attempts to publish a paper with an anti-government point of view were made, perhaps the most typical of which was Nuevo Diario in the late 1970s. Not overtly seditious, it quietly attempted to investigate the government. The Secret Anti-Communist Army allegedly made death threats against Editor Mario Solorzano, causing him to flee the country. Allegations also were made that staff members were threatened, and reporters mugged or kidnapped; advertisers refused to contribute, and the newspaper collapsed in 1980.

Journalists were poorly paid. In 1975, monthly pay was supposed to range from U.S. $152 for a photographer to $253 for a reporter/editor, but very few journalists received that much. Most working reporters came from the lower middle class, with little or no trainingjournalism being considered a low-prestige occupationwere willing to accept the low pay in exchange for a chance to get to know the right people in politics and business and perhaps get a better job. Such reporters were not likely to be critical, and indeed, rarely were. In addition, allegations of money offered under the table for favorable reporting were often present, a form of bribery known as fafa. What it amounted to was that the press had a decidedly conservative bias and a strong desire to not rock the government boat.

With no redress seen for the conditions that had confined a majority of the indigenous population to the highlands attempting to live off plots of land so small they could not feed even the people who farmed them, guerrilla military activity began and reached its peak in 1980-81. The guerilla army numbered 6,000 to 8,000 armed irregulars and between 250,000 and 500,000 supporters throughout the country. In 1982, the insurgents came together to form the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG), thus creating a viable military and political entity which concerned the government's generals. Members of the ruling class coupled fear of a successful Castro-like revolution with the irregularities that characterized elections and began to question the generals' governing ability. Although the military continued to refuse to negotiate with the rebels, outside pressures came to bear in the form of peace treaties being negotiated in El Salvador and Nicaragua, as well as the ending of the Cold War.

In 1987, peace-seeking Guatemalans formed the National Reconciliation Commission (CNR) chaired by Msgr. Rodolfo Quezada Toruño of the Catholic Church Bishops' Conference. NCR began a "Dialogo Nacional" calling for a political settlement of the civil war. Although the military and other members of the ruling class ignored them, the CNR met with the URNG in Oslo and Madrid. After an agreement in principle was reached, the guerillas agreed not to disrupt the 1990 elections, which saw Jorge Serrano elected president.

Serrano began to negotiate directly with the URNG, involving the rebels in the political process for the first time.

Serrano's record was spotty; he had some success in reducing the influence of the military and persuaded military officials to talk to the rebels directly, but in 1993 he illegally dissolved Guatemala's Supreme Court and Congress, as well as restricted civil rights and freedoms in a self-initiated coup or autogolpe. Faced with united opposition he fled the state, and Guatemala's Congress elected Human Rights Ombudsman Ramiro De León Carpio to complete the presidential term. Under the new president, peace negotiations intensified and a number of pacts with the rebelsfor resettlement of refugees, indigenous rights, and historical clarificationwere signed.

In 1995 center-right National Advancement Party (PAN) candidate Alvaro Arzú was elected to the presidency. In December 1996 Arzú signed a peace treaty with the guerrillas, ending the 36-year civil war. Along with peace came changes to the press.

Economic Framework

In 2000, agriculture accounted for 25 percent of the gross national product and employed more than half the labor force, a staggering 60 percent of whom were below the poverty line. About 2 percent of the population owned around 70 percent of Guatemala's land, with the remainder mostly not arable. Almost one-third of the population is illiterate, but that figure is much higher among the impoverished who, by and large, are Mayan. Although the four major daily newspapers are privately owned and independent, their audiences primarily consist of the relatively well off.

Although the signing of the peace accords had the further effect of diminishing violence against journalists, there are other pressures on the press. Marylene Smeets of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said that, "Guatemalan journalists have compared this to a spigot. If they print good news, money flows in. If they print bad news, the money dries up." She also pointed out that "problems with advertisers also arise without government instigation. To write that a particular brand of automobile is the one most frequently stolen is to lose that brand's advertising."

Reporters are not without fault. Fafa continued to exist, albeit somewhat less frequently.

Press Laws

In 2000, the U.S. Department of State reported that the Guatemala Constitution provided for freedom of speech, including the press. By 2002, the letter of the law remained unchanged, and the government claimed to be working to improve its implementation of the law.

In addition to the Peace Accords of 1996 settling the civil war, the Accords pledged to enact reforms to the Radio Communication Law to make radio frequencies available for the indigenous Mayan communities, a matter of importance since most of that population could not speak Spanish. However, the government instead passed a law creating a public auction for radio frequencies and the resultant high cost proved an "effective barrier to rural indigenous access to radio frequencies," according to the U.S. Department of State. As of 2000, there were no radio stations solely for Mayans, although occasional broadcasts, speeches, and Spanish-language instruction was broadcast in the various indigenous tongues.

Censorship

In 2000, the U.S. Department of State found that the Guatemalan government usually respected the rights granted the press in its constitution, adding, however, that journalists had been threatened and intimidated, and finding at least two examples of "government-connected censorship." The government developed public information programs that radio and television stations had to broadcast. The government owned seven nationwide television channels; in 2002, one was being used by a Protestant group and the other by the military, with plans pending to sell the military channel to the Catholic Church. President Alfonso Antonio Portillo said the sale would provide competition for the four major stations that were monopolized by one man, Angel González of Mexico, a close friend and financial supporter of the president.

State-Press Relations

In May 2002, CPJ's Smeets reported that the press was showing signs of independence. CPJ said that "the virtual halt of violence against journalists suggests how dramatically conditions have improved for the Guatemalan press." However, that observation proved somewhat sanguine.

On June 5, 1997, a few months after the signing of the peace treaty, Jorge Luis Marroquín Sagastume, founder of the monthly Sol Chortí, which was investigating alleged corruption in the mayor's office of the town of Jocotaan, was murdered by two killers who, when apprehended, said they had been hired by the mayor. In November 1997, the head of the weekend section of Prensa Libre was stabbed by an unknown assailant, dying three hours later in the hospital.

The CPJ said that in 1997 the press had become more pluralistic and professional, but was "still hindered in its work by a climate of violence and growing tensions with the government of President Alvaro Arzú Irigoyen." It added that at least one other journalist had been killed in that year, "but against a backdrop of growing crime it was impossible to determine if the killings were motivated by their reporting."

Despite the apparent risks, journalists have reported aggressively on once-taboo subjects such as alleged government corruption, the drug trade, and possible human rights abuses by the military. Indigenous issues also have received increasing attention, not only from regional newspapers, but from Guatemala City dailies like Siglo Vientiuno.

President Arzú surprised everyone when he said publications were exaggerating violence in order to sell newspapers. Smeets described a publicly-funded television news show, Avances, supposedly in existence to inform the public about the government, but actually being used to promote the party in power.

Writing in 1998, Smeets saw violence diminishing against journalists, but felt that Arzú presented a new threat to freedom of the press. Although journalists tried to report objectively on a rising crime wave, the president felt that such reporting discouraged tourists. He continued to criticize newspapers for exaggeration and negativity, using his influence to try to deprive them of needed advertising revenue. For example, owners of the independent weekly Crónica felt forced to sell the magazine when all official agencies were forbidden to advertise in it. The new owners appointed right-wing and presidential friend Mario Davis García as editor, after which most of the publication's reporters promptly quit in protest.

Some Guatemalans said the well-known radio program Guatemala Flash changed hands from an owner who criticized the government freely to a pro-government investor because of similar pressure. Journalists were denied access to official information, on the grounds that it was privileged. It was alleged that the presidential spokesman, Ricardo de la Torre, regularly met with officials and urged them to ignore publications that were critical or negative, especially of the government. Eduardo Villatoro, ex-president of the Guatemala Journalists Association and a columnist for Prensa Libre, said that the "government does not realize that political space and freedom of expression are not gracious concessions of the government, but hard fought gains."

Although the CPJ found the same pressures on a free press in Guatemala in 1998, it also saw reason for encouragement. Of the three reported cases of press harassment, only one could be documented and the police officer involved was fired. Although under some financial pressure, El Periódico continued to improve its investigative reporting while maintaining its independence. (The newspaper had been purchased in 1997 by the same publisher who owned the independent Prensa Libre. ) Despite government interference, the Guatemalan press as a whole became increasingly independent and professional in 1998. The CPJ said that the Asociación de Periodistas de Guatemala (APG) joined the International Freedom of Expression Exchange Clearing House.

Arzú's hostility toward the press abated in 1999 but not for ideological reasonsit was an election year. The results ended his four-year term. Arzú may have lowered his criticism but he continued to work against journalism in other ways. For instance, a radio program devoted to discrediting print journalists and opposition members was found to be run by a special advisor to the ex-president.

It had only been three years since the cessation of the guerrilla war, yet reporters often tiptoed gingerly around sensitive areas, such as any alleged links between the drug trade and the generals. Journalists were still threatened, though not as often. In May 1998 El Periódico revealed that two of its reporters were trailed by members of the presidential security detail. In the past, it was likely the paper would not have reported on a matter like this, so many felt progress had been made. In addition, the two brothers accused of murdering Sol Chortí founder and director Jorge Luis Marroquín were tried, found guilty, and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

In April 1998, a radio program called Hoy por Hoy (Day by Day) broadcast a series of indictments aimed at print journalists; in particular, Prensa Libre owner Dina García and editor Dina Fernández were singled out as incompetent reporters and immoral women, although they were neither. The staff of El Periódico suspected Arzú, and an investigation found a link. On June 17, headlines trumpeted: "Who's Behind Hoy por Hoy ?" The answer: Mariano Rayo, special adviser to the Arzú. Called before a congressional hearing, Rayo offered to resign, but Arzú refused to hear of it. Eventually, Rayo was elected a deputy to the Legislative Assembly. Fernández summed up the affair: "In any other country this would have destroyed [him] Here they reward him "

Attempts to improve the quality of journalism were made in 1999. Media organizations tried to end fafa, al-though they were not completely successful. The APG began a dialogue about the need for a professional code of ethics.

Under the presidency of Alfonso Portillo Cabrera, and despite frequent but somewhat diminished intimidation and threats, the press continued to pursue risky activities such as investigating the military, politicians and the Guatemalan equivalent of the CIA. Former President Ríos Montt re-surfaced as president of congress and ally of the incoming president, and a target of a journalistic investigation into a conspiracy to reduce taxes on alcohol. Prensa Libre broke the story; editor and columnist Dina Fernández said, "Unlike in the past, we did our job and didn't remain silent."

On May 15, 2000, El Periódico accused the Estado Mayor Presidencial, or Presidential High Command, of running a clandestine intelligence agency, the director of which was an ex-military official. The previous day, a reporter for that paper had been followed by an unmarked car with concealed license plates; several other journalists on the case were either followed or received intimidating phone calls. Eight days after the story broke, Siglo Veintinuno said a journalist from Nuestro Diario was threatened during a phone call, a staffer for the radio show Guatemala Flash was faxed a death threat, and two reporters from Siglo Vientiuno itself were threatened. CERIGUA, the left-leaning news agency that had recently arrived from Mexico, also reported being threatened more than once over this case. On May 19, the CPJ sent a letter to Attorney General Adolfo González Rodas, detailing and protesting the intimidation, and calling for him to "take adequate measures to ensure that journalists working in Guatemala are able to work safely, without threats or intimidation."

In July, "An Open Letter from the pro-Army Patriots to the People of Guatemala" was paid for and appeared in Siglo Vientiuno. In it, El Periódico publisher José Rubén Zamoro was identified as one of those "seeking to destroy the army," and it added that from "now on [our intention] must be made firm and clear [it is]to defend the institutionality of the army and our sovereignty."

All of the journalists threatened in 2000 were not harmed, but some were. Prensa Libre photographer Roberto Martínez was shot and killed by private security guards while covering a demonstration against an increase in bus fares. The guards opened fire on the demonstrators, hitting Martínez despite his clearly being a journalist and his camera being visible. Two bystanders also were killed, and Julio Cruz, a reporter from Siglo Vientiuno, as well as Christian Alejandro García, a cameraman from the television news show Notisiete were hospitalized. Other journalists surrounded and detained the two security guards until police arrived and arrested them. The two were awaiting trial as the year ended. Centro para la Defensa de la Libertad de Expresión, or CEDEX, a newly created organization, issued a communiqué condemning the killing.

In 2001, freedom of the press somewhat deteriorated in Guatemala, as did the political stability of President Portillo's nation. In February, the staffers of El Periódico were threatened by a mob whose members claimed to be protesting that newspaper's investigation of corruption on the part of governmental minister Luis Rabbé. The CPJ's protest letter to Portillo said the mob tried "to force the daily's doors open and threw burning copies of the newspaper into the building," additionally burning an effigy of publisher José Rubén Zamora. The police took 40 minutes to arrive and arrested nobody when they did. Portillo denounced the attack but did nothing to prevent further protests. The following month, four reporters from the paper were attacked and threatened after investigating a bank under state control. Crédito Hipotecario Nacional was revealed by Silvia Gereda and Luis Escobar to have loaned huge amounts of money to friends of the bank's stockholders and the president, José Armando Llort, who responded by taking out newspaper ads threatening libel suits against the journalists. In March, an anonymous man told Gereda that she and her friends were being filmed, and that the bank president wanted them killed. Later she was followed by an unmarked car and threatened several times. A colleague had a gun pointed to his head and was told if the investigation continued, all would die. Portillo, in the face of mounting national and international pressure, is believed to have personally asked the bank president to resign.

In April, the president of congress, Ríos Montt, whose presidency and anti-insurgency policies had resulted in the deaths of more than 200,000 mostly innocent Guatemalans, complained that the earlier investigation into the taxation of alcohol was part of a hidden agenda to discredit him and guarantee his "political lynching." Seven months later, according to CPJ, the investigation "was shelved after a highly controversial court ruling."

In June, the Centro para la Defensa de la Libertitad de Expresión, a Guatemalan freedom of the press group, had its inaugural seminar. In November, ironically voting on Guatemalan Journalists Day, the congress required all college graduates, including journalism students, to register with colegios or trade associations. Portillo was asked to veto the new law by many press freedom organizationsincluding some international organizations and the APGand said he would do so if he felt the bill could damage journalists.

A penalty for the murder of a journalist was carried out in February 2001 when the security guard who killed Roberto Martínez was sentenced to 15 years in the penitentiary and his company ordered to pay damages equivalent to U.S. $20,000 to his family.

As 2002 enfolded, at least one more case of journalistic intimidation had already taken place. On April 10 in downtown Guatemala City, David Herrera, a freelance reporter working for Enlaces, a group of journalists, was kidnapped and threatened with death. Herrera, working on a story recounting alleged government-sanctioned killing, was manhandled by four unknown men brandishing handguns. The men apparently wanted to know where Herrera had the notes he and a colleague had collected concerning the case. The men had searched Herrera's truck, but apparently did not find what they were looking for. The men told Herrera they were going to kill him, and when one cocked a gun, Herrera jumped from the moving vehicle and fled back to his office. Herrera required medical attention for shock. CPJ sent a letter of protest to Portillo, but three months later he had not yet answered.

Despite the arrival of peace in Guatemala, violence against journalists lingered, but at a significantly reduced pace when compared to earlier years. Although the government still did not seem willing to allow a totally free press to exist, the press itself showed great improvement in directly confronting the government, something it would not have dreamed of just a decade earlier.

Attitude Toward Foreign Media

In a nation where right-wing death squads were blamed for the 1985 disappearance of U.S. journalists Griffith Davis and Nicholas Chapman Blake, conditions towards foreign journalists in post-Peace Accords Guatemala were greatly improved. Since 1996, there have been no instances of hostility reported towards reporters from other nations. The Inter-American Press was allowed to hold its "Unpublished Crimes against Journalists" conference in Guatemala City in 1997, which focused attention on cases such as the 1980 murders of journalists Irma Flaquer and Jorge Carpio Nicolle.

News Agencies

In 2002, foreign news agencies included Reuters and the Associated Press, as well as agencies from Spain, Germany, France, Mexico, the United States and Canada. Domestic agencies included ACAN-EFE, Agencia Cimak.

The news agency CERIGUA, which had had to operate in Mexico for most of the guerrilla war due to its left-leaning philosophy, opened an office in Guatemala's capital in 1994. It provides news from a leftist perspective, and in 2002, was continuing to function as independently as possible, including reporting on attempted intimidation. During 2000, CERIGUA helped reveal the existence of a clandestine governmental intelligence agency, despite numerous anonymous threats being made to it by fax and telephone.

Broadcast Media

In 2000, there are 26 stations, with all content emanating from one of four major outlets: Canal 3, Canal 7 /Televisiete, Canal 11, and Canal 13. All are located in Guatemala City, from where all mediaprint and electronic originates. The government also owns other channels, two of which were allowed to be used by an Evangelical Protestant group (Canal 21) and the military (Canal 5). In June 2002 plans were being made to allocate a channel to the Roman Catholic Church.

Radio broadcasters numbered 632 stations. The content of both radio and television was determined by the government.

Although print journalists continued to grow into their roles as investigative reporters during the postwar period, those working in radio and television were, for the most part, stagnant. Part of the problem was money; small cooperative radio stations could not afford to bid on frequencies offered at public auction. In a land where radio is the dominant medium, larger stations had more money to bid than did Mayan groups, which demanded improved media access but did not get it despite the 1996 peace accords call for specific indigenous language radio frequencies.

Violence was not limited to members of the print press. On June 16, 1997, a news reader at Radio Campesina in Tiquisate, Herández Pérez, was shot and killed while leaving the station. Also killed was a station messenger, Haroldo Escobar Noriega. In 2000, Christian Alejandro Garcia, a cameraman from the television news show Notisiete, was shot by security guards while covering a demonstration against higher bus fares and had to be hospitalized. In the same year, a staffer for radio show Guatemala Flash was faxed a death threat over that station's investigation of the government's unofficial intelligence agency. Finally, less than two years later, the murder of another journalist took place when Linea Directa radio call-in talk-show host Jorge Mynor Alegría Armendáriz was killed just outside his home near the Caribbean coast. Some of Linea Directa's favorite topics had been government corruption and mismanagement; a colleague said that Alegría had been threatened and offered bribes. Another journalist from the same station, Enrique Aceituno, resigned in the face of threats stemming from his discussions of similar problems. The Ombudsman's Office for Human Rights decided the assassination was politically motivated, but a local prosecutor was less certain.

Governmental pressure of a subtler sort also could be seen at times. Some Guatemalans said that Guatemala Flash changed hands from an owner who criticized the government freely to a pro-government investor because of government pressure aimed at advertisers. A publicly-funded television news show, Avances, was supposed to inform the public about the government but spent most of its time criticizing the print press. The radio program Hoy por Hoy broadcast indictments aimed at Prensa Libre owner Dina García and editor Dina Fernández. President Arzú was found to be behind the false allegations.

Charges were made that it is impossible for an independent radio and television media to emerge in Guatemala because so many stations were owned by so few of the people. It has been pointed out that a Mexican national, Angel González, owns all four of the private Guatemalan television stations as of June 2002, despite laws against both monopolies and foreign ownership. Many felt that Portillo, despite his protests to the contrary, was behind González's closing of an occasionally controversial news show known as T-Mas de Noche. Portillo denied any involvement and invited the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to investigate, which it did. The result was that the investigator urged the government to look into González's holdings, as well as recommending the suspension of the public auction of broadcast radio frequencies in order to make at least some of them available to the indigenous population in appropriate languages. Shortly thereafter the auctions were suspended. But in mid-2002, there were no indigenous broadcast channels for either radio or television. However, occasional broadcasts and speeches were given in Mayan tongues.

Electronic News Media

In the year 2000, there were five Internet service providers. The number of Internet users is rapidly increasing, especially among journalists who use it for both information and training purposes. The Internet functions government interference. Smeets said the Internet opened the eyes of Guatemalan journalists and exposed them to a more professional, better-finished, more ingenious and creative press.

In 2002, four major dailies are available on-line: Prensa Libre at www.prensalibre.com.gt; Siglo XXI at www.sigloxxi.com; La Hora at www.lahora.com.gt, and El Periódico at www.elperiodico.com. Four television stations also are online: Canal 3 at www.canal3.com.gt; Canal 7 / Televisiete at www.canal7.com.gt; Canal 11 at www.canal11.com.gt, and Canal 13 at www.canal13.com.gt. Also online is the radio group Emisoras Unidas at www.emisorasunidas.com.

Education and Training

In 1998, the Asociación de Periodistas de Guatemala began work with San Carlos University to develop journalism workshops. By mid-2002, there were individual journalism classes at that university, but no degree program. The Internet supplied some journalistic training. Regarding journalism training in Guatemala, Smeets said Guatemalan journalists need better education opportunities to learn the skills necessary to analyze current events, and that better reporting will raise reader expectations, which "opens more space for independent journalism."

Summary

Before the Peace Accords, journalists were murdered, threatened, kidnapped, and were actually in the pay of the ruling classes, as were their newspapers. The print media, in particular, had become both more pluralistic and professional, as the CPJ observed in 1997. The same organization in 1998 referred to "the virtual halt of violence against journalists this year," so the profession has become safer. Although violence has escalated in recent years, it is still nowhere near what it had been. The government does try to influence newspapers, for instance, by encouraging the withholding of advertising revenue.

In the case of television and radio, there is less reason for optimism. The government's virtual monopoly over television, coupled with its control over radio channels, is a threat to freedom of the press, especially in a nation where nearly one-third of the population is illiterate. Control of these media outlets has dire consequences for the Mayan-speaking majority of Guatemalan Indians, whose primary access to the news is radio and television. In the first two years of the twenty-first century, there is neither a television nor radio station for these people, although there is an occasional radio program or speech in an indigenous language.

By the halfway point of 2002, it is not yet clear if either President Portillo or any members of the power structure he represents, including the generals, has intentions of democratization. Guatemala was brought to the Peace Accords by a combination of external pressure and the internal recognition that the war was basically unwinnable. Portillo and his backers may have intended to implement the Peace Accords and were perhaps slowly, but inevitably, progressing towards this goal. Or they may have regarded the peace process as an extension of the civil war, one in which they worked their hardest to keep the status quo while giving the illusion that they intended to become more democratic. Ultimate freedom of the Guatemalan press is dependent upon the freedom of the Guatemalan state.

One thing, however, seems evident: The full participation of the highland-dwelling indigenous people of Guatemala will be necessary before there is any sort of democracy or true freedom of the press. There is a synergistic relationship between a free press and a free and literate people; when people cannot read or at least hear and see for themselves what their government is doing, that synergy cannot exist. In Guatemala, it has never had a chance to develop.

Too many Guatemalans remain incapable of taking part in a democracy; they cannot understand the Spanish of the press, or they cannot read at all. Until they can fully participate, their nation's press continues to exist only for its literate and Spanish speaking members.

Bibliography

Brown, Robert U. "Curtailing Press Freedom." In The Fourth Estate, 128, April 8, 1995, pp. 31-3.

Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. "Background Note: Guatemala." Available from http://www.state.gov./r/pa/ei/bgn/2045.htm.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In The World Fact-book 2002. Available from http://www.cia.gov./cia/.

Cleary, Edward L. "Examining Guatemalan Processes of Violence and Peace." In Latin American Research Review. January 2002, 37, no. 1, 230-246.

"Country Reports: Guatemala." The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001. Available from http://www.cpj.org.

Ebel, Roland H. Misunderstood Caudillo: Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes and the Failure of Democracy in Guatemala. New York: University Press of America, 1998.

Embassy of Guatemala to the United States. Available from http://www.guatemala-embassy.org.

Jonas, Susanne. Of Doves and Centaurs: Guatemala's Peace Process. Santa Cruz, Ca.: Westview, A Member of the Perseus Books Group: 2000.

Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. Abandoning the Victims: The UN Advisory Services Program in Guatemala. New York: The Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, 1990.

Lovell, George W. A Beauty that Hurts: Life and Death in Guatemala. Austin, Tx.: U of Texas, 2000.

McCleary, Rachel M. Dictating Democracy: Guatemala and the End of Violent Revolution. Gainesville, Fl.: U P of Florida, 1999.

Nelson, Diane M. A Finger in the Wound: Body Politics in Quincentennial Guatemala. Los Angeles: U of California P, 1999.

Nichols, John Spencer. "Guatemala." In The World Press Encyclopedia, George Thomas Kurian, ed. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1982, 409-420.

Simon, Jean-Marie. Guatemala: Eternal SpringEternal Tyranny. New York: W.W. Norton Co., 1987.

Smeets, Marylene. "Speaking Out: Postwar Journalism in Guatemala and El Salvador." Available from http://www.cpj.org/attacks99/americas99/americasSP.html.

"Station May Go Catholic." In Chicago Sun-Times, June 14, 2002, p. 43.

Trudeau, Robert H. "Understanding Transitions to Democracy: Recent Work on Guatemala." In Latin American Research Review, 1993, 28, no. 1, 235-49.

Von Hagen, Victor W. World of the Maya. New York, New York: The New American Library, 1960.

U.S. Department of State. "Guatemala: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2000." Available from http://www.state.gov./g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/wha/775pf.htm.

Zur, Judith N. Violent Memories: Mayan War Widows in Guatemala. Boulder, Co.: Westview Press, a member of HarperCollins Publishers, 1998.

Ronald E. Sheasby, Ph. D.

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Guatemala

Guatemala

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Guatemala
Region: North & Central America
Population: 12,639,939
Language(s): Spanish, Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna, Xinca
Literacy Rate: 55.6%
Number of Primary Schools: 12,409
Compulsory Schooling: 6 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 1.7%
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 1,510,811
  Secondary: 375,528
  Higher: 80,228
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 88%
  Secondary: 26%
Teachers: Primary: 43,403
  Secondary: 22,624
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 35:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 82%
  Secondary: 25%



History & Background

The Republic of Guatemala is one of seven countries located in Central America. Bordered by Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and the Pacific Ocean, Guatemala has a land area of 108,430 square kilometers (41,865 square miles or approximately the size of Tennessee) and a population of 13 million, representing over one third of Central America's entire population. The climate of Guatemala is primarily tropical, although it contains cool highlands in the north and tropical jungles in the south. The central terrain is largely mountainous, while the coastal region is bordered by plains. There are many active volcanoes in the country, and the area is also subject to hurricanes and earthquakes.

Approximately 40 percent of the population of Guatemala is urban. The most populated area is the country's capital, Guatemala City, which boasts a metropolitan population of over two million people. Guatemala is a leader in Central American's commerce and manufacturing. It produces and exports petroleum, minerals, tobacco, electrical goods, pharmaceuticals, food, and textiles. Tourism in Guatemala also thrives, particularly in Antigua, which is a major cultural center of Guatemala City. Agriculture represents about 25 percent of the Guatemala's income, and farming accounts for nearly half of the nation's workforce. Approximately 36 percent of the country's exports go to the United States, which in turn comprises about 40 percent of Guatemala's imports. Guatemala also exports to other Central American countries, as well as to Japan and Germany.

Guatemala has a rich and culturally distinctive history. More than 50 percent of Guatemala's population descended from Mayan ancestry. Historians believe that the region, which now comprises Guatemala, contained a series of small kingdoms and city-states during whose existence architectural accomplishments, many representations of which can still be found in Guatemala, flourished. In 1521, the area was claimed by Spain, under whose rule the Mayan Indians were suppressed. During the 300 year period which followed, the Mayan Culture diminished, although today it is a celebrated part of Guatemala's heritage. People of Mayan-Spanish descent today are referred to as Ladinos.

After winning its independence from Spain in 1821, Guatemala briefly became part of Mexico and later a member of the United Provinces of Central America. From that time until 1944, it was governed by a series of dictatorships until its first civilian president, Juan José Arevalo, was elected and promised to bring democratic political reform. The new form of government, however, was short-lived; many of Arevalo's successors returned the country to a series of dictatorships, military rule, and civil wars until 1985 when Vinico Cerezo was elected to the presidency. Under Cerezo's leadership, the new 1985 Constitution (which was temporarily suspended and amended in 1993) provided for the separation of governmental powers and included provisions for the protection of human rights. Entering the twenty-first century, Guatemala enjoyed a progressive, human rights-oriented government that sought to provide for the protection, education, and cultural advancements of its people. Among the country's agendas in 2000 were the perpetuation of human rights within its borders, the modernization of its schools, and its diplomatic relations with other world governments.


Constitutional & Legal Foundations


Like the United States, Guatemala's government is comprised of three branches: the Congreso de la Republica or Legislative Branch, a unicameral national congress made up of 110 deputies who serve 4 year terms; the Executive Branch, comprised of the president, vice president, and the Council of Ministers, who are appointed by the president; and the Judicial Branch, a hierarchical series of upper and lower courts over which the 13 member Corte Surpema de Justicia (Supreme Court) presides. Members of the Supreme Court serve five-year terms, and the president, who acts as both chief of state and as head of government, serves a four-year term.

Guatemala is divided into 22 states or departmentos, under which 331 municipos (townships) handle local affairs. Each departmento is headed by a governor. Under the current constitution, the president and vice president are elected by national vote and may serve only one term. Voting is compulsory for citizens 18 years or older.


Educational SystemOverview


Similar to the United States, the educational system in Guatemala is divided into three levels: primary (elementary), secondary (high school), and university. Education in Guatemala is free and compulsory through sixth grade, or between the ages of 7 and 14. Because public schools are often located sparsely in the rural areas of the country, there is an abundance of private schools in Guatemala. Many of these institutions are Marist or Jesuit. In total, there are approximately 9,300 primary schools, which are attended by 1.3 million students. More than 290,000 students attend private secondary schools, and the total university enrollment in Guatemala is approximately 88,000.

Language of Instruction: Although Spanish is the official language spoken in Guatemala, not all of its citizens are fluent in Spanish. Spoken among the nation's high Indian population are over 20 indigenous Mayan Indian languages, including K'iche', Kakchiquel, K'ekchi, Mam, and Quiche, which are used primarily in the rural areas of the country. In fact, only 60 percent of Guatemala's population speaks Spanish; the remaining 40 percent speak indigenous Mayan languages. These dialects are spoken in many of the country's rural schools. One of Guatemala's educational goals is to become uni-lingual, which means that ideally all Guatemalans would be able to speak Spanish. However, students who complete all 6 years of primary school and all 5 years of secondary may have as many as 11 years of English instruction, a trend which began around the time of Guatemala's break from dictatorship in the late 1940s. Since that time, school children, at least in the larger cities, may have also received training in other languages, especially French, German, and Italian.


Instructional Technology (Computers): Lack of adequate educational technology remains a problem for the Guatemalan classroom, especially in the mountainous, rural areas. Absence of funding, limited technical access, and lack of operator expertise prevent all schools from being equipped with state-of-the-art computers and distance learning technology. However, these commodities are making their entrance into the universities, particularly the University of San Carlos, which boasts a fully updated website, student access to the Internet, and other interactive features. Students who can afford the required technology and tuition may participate in online education courses offered outside of the country.


CurriculumDevelopment: The Guatemalan Ministry of Education supports a progressive, globalized curriculum. One of the country's major educational achievements is its focus on globalization and multicultural affairs. Starting in secondary school, students learn about other cultures and nations, including their Latin American neighbors, other Western-hemisphere countries, and countries all over the world. This attention to multiculturalism aids in Guatemala's presence in international affairs, global commerce, and social development. Curriculum in Guatemala also gives attention to the social issues the country faces and encourages its students to be active in helping solve these problems.


Preprimary & Primary Education

A child's first year in school is pre-kindergarten. Primary or elementary school comprises the next six years. Students must pass a general examination at each grade level in order to pass to the subsequent level. Students who fail any part of the year-end examination must repeat that entire year. Examinations are prepared under the supervision of Guatemala's Minister of Education, who also presides over the curriculum and administrative functions of the country's public schools.

Students receive instruction in all the "basic" areas, including language, science, mathematics, and history. In most city schools, both Spanish and English are taught at all primary levels, although in more remote areas, indigenous Mayan languages are used exclusively. In some larger urban schools, courses in German, French, Italian, Arabic and Chinese may also be offered. French, German, and English-run schools teach a combination of the national curriculum and their respective country's curriculum.


Secondary Education


Most secondary schools are located in the urban areas of Guatemala and are affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church (Catholicism is the predominant religion of Guatemala, although there are many Protestants and Mayan religions practiced). Several German, French, and American schools also exist. Teachers at these schools use English, rather than Spanish, to deliver instruction.

Since compulsory education ends at the sixth grade, many Guatemalan children do not attend secondary school. In fact, recent estimates hold that only one third of all children continue their education beyond primary school, a problem that may contribute to a high level of illiteracy in adults over age 15. Children may not have easy access to a secondary school, or, if they come from agricultural communities, they are unable to attend because they must work to support their families' farms.

At the secondary level, students receive three years of general education, called Ciclo Prevocacional, followed by two years of vocational training, called Ciclo Diversifacado, which allows students to "specialize" in one of several professional areas such as education, agriculture, and business. Students who complete the final three years of study receive a Bachillerato, the equivalent of a high school diploma, and are eligible to be admitted to university. Instead of attending Ciclo Diversifcado, students may opt to devote their following three years of study to specialized studies, resulting in a certificates in perito (certification) in industria (industry), agricola (agriculture), or contador (law).

Guatemala faces a rather hefty illiteracy problem with as many as 50 percent of the entire population, especially rural women, being functionally illiterate. To combat this problem and to improve the quality of education, Guatemala implemented a requirement into the secondary education requirements for its senior students. Before completing the curriculum necessary for receiving a diploma, secondary students are now required to teach five people to read. This mandate, which went into effect in 2001, seeks to increase citizens' awareness of the need to educate the populace, while simultaneously combating illiteracy. Although this measure was met with some initial resistance by the schools, it has so far proven to be an effective means of reducing the widespread effects of illiteracy in the country.


Higher Education

There are five institutions of higher learning in Guatemala, all located in the capital city. The most prominent of these is the Universidad de San Carlos (USC), the country's largest institution of higher education (and the largest in Central America) with an enrollment of over 60,000 students. As the only public university in Guatemala, USC offers a comprehensive list of degree options in business, education, the arts, medicine, law, agriculture, veterinary, and in other disciplines. The university also operates a number of satellite or complimentary campuses located throughout the country.

The remainder of Guatemala's universities are private: the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, the Universidad Rafael Landivar, the University of Francis Marroquin, the University of Mariano Galvez, and the University of Galileo, the country's youngest university. Many of the private universities in Guatemala are linked to the Roman Catholic Church (la Universidad de Francis Marroquin was established by an Archbishop, for example), although the la Universidad de Mariano Galvez is a Protestant church-governed institution. All institutions offer a variety of degree and certificate programs in all areas of study, including arts and letters, business, medicine, law, engineering, and agriculture.

Admission to universities in Guatemala is based on applicants' holding of the bachillerato (equivalent to a high school diploma), a knowledge of Spanish, and, in the case of the private schools, a satisfactory grade on the appropriate Examen de Admision (entrance examination). Once enrolled, students must obtain a minimum grade of 51 percent to pass coursework; at some private institutions, a minimum grade of 61 percent is required. When students complete their programs of study, they are issued a diploma by Guatemala's Minister of Education, not by the individual institution. Students from other countries may enter Guatemala's universities provided they have credentials similar to the bachillerato and a knowledge of Spanish.

Students may complete many different types of programs at the university level. The first stage is known as the licenciatura. This is equivalent to a bachelor's degree in the United States. A student receives this credential after three to seven years of study, depending on the subject area: a technical certificate (tecnico ) requires three years of study, a degree in Arts and Sciences requires four years; a degree in ingeniero (engineering), requires five to six years; and a degree in medicine requires seven years. Usually each degree is accompanied by some type of professional certification. Also as part of their mandatory curriculum, students must complete a seminar in Social Issues, which requires them to write about a significant problem facing Guatemalan society, such as the illiteracy rate. The school year lasts from January to October.

Beyond the licenciatura is the maestrado (master's degree), which requires two years of additional study and a thesis, and the doctorado (doctoral degree), which requires two years' study in addition to the time required for the maestrado. Doctoral students must also complete a thesis in one of the following areas: law, humanities, education, economics, or social sciences. To combat the illiteracy problem, each graduating university student must complete an internship which requires them to teach five Guatemalans how to read and write as part of his/her program of academic study.


Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

National policies related to education in Guatemala are handled through the Ministerio de Educacion (the Ministry of Education), presided over by the national Minister of Education. The ministry's sphere of influence covers predominantly, but not exclusively, primary (compulsory) schools. The Minister is responsible for such matters as developing proficiency examinations that students are required to pass in order to move from one grade level to the next; ensuring that state curriculum is observed fully in public schools and at least partially in private schools; and managing finances allocated to education, which is approximately 1.8 percent of the country's GDP (Gross Domestic Product). All diplomas are issued to students by the Ministry, not by the individual schools or programs of study. Additionally, programs for non-traditional (older) learners are offered, especially for semi-qualified workers in the agricultural and health sectors.

Educational research in Guatemala covers a spectrum of academic disciplines, including agriculture, business, arts and sciences, social work, engineering, law, and medicine. Each university maintains active research programs in many of these areas, and there are several Guatemalan organizations that support faculty research, including the Centro de Estudios de Guatemala (The Center for the Study of Guatemala), the Centro de Investigaciónes Económicas Nacionales (The Center for Economic Investigation), and Facultad Lationamericana de Ciencias Sociales (Latin American Faculty of Science and Society). Each university also contains a host of institutes which support different research projects, such as la Universidad de Valle's Centro de Estudios en Salud (Center for Health Studies), Centro de Investigaciónes en Ingenieria Civil y Ciencias de la Tierra (Center for Research in Civil Engineering and Earth Sciences), and Centro de Investigaciónes Arqueologicas y Anthropologicas (Center for Archeological and Anthropological Research) to name a few. Additionally, many institutions in other countries work jointly with counterparts in Guatemala to conduct academic research, including the Kaqchikel Resource Center at the University of Kansas, the Programa Cooperativo para el Desarrollo Sostenible de los Recursos Naturales y la Conservación del Medio Ambiente (the Cooperative Program for the Continued Development of Natural Resources and the Conservation of the Atmosphere) between the Universidad del Valle and Texas A & M University and the Instituto de Nutrición de Centro America y Panama (Central America and Panama Institute for Nutrition). As the effects of globalization continue to impact Guatemala and the surrounding area, the number of collaborative projects will likely increase.

Each university in Guatemala offers a series of conferences, symposia, or other events that allow scholars from within and outside of the country to share insights on problems affecting the region. Seminars related to matters of health, medicine, technology, and natural disasters (particularly earthquakes) can be found at the universities. Moreover, the country's rich Mayan heritage allows for many research projects related to anthropology, archaeology, and cultural studies, which attract researchers from all over the world. The Office of the Ministry of Education also works with institutions from other countries to offer different types of teaching and research exchange programs through its Departmento de Coordinación con Organismos Internaciónales (Department of Coordination with International Organizations).

In addition to research and teaching programs which exist primarily for the benefit of citizens in Guatemala, many Spanish language-intensive schools exist, particularly in the capital city. Adult students from the United States, Europe, Asia, and other countries find Guatemala an excellent place to learn or refine their Spanish language skills. Most of these schools, some of which are coordinated through programs in other countries, provide students with immersion in Latin American culture, the opportunity to live with a Guatemalan family, and an excellent way to learn conversational and business Spanish. As of 2000 there were at least five such programs located in Guatemala.


Teaching Profession

Like the United States and most other progressive countries, Guatemala recognizes the importance of preparing good teachers for the classroom. However, because teachers' salaries in the country are not good, and since teaching conditions are often difficult due to lack of physical resources, the teaching profession does not always attract enough well qualified educators. This problem is also exacerbated by the linguistic differences found in the far northern and southern areas of the country.

All prospective teachers must obtain the bacherilloto, with an emphasis on teaching, to enter the classroom. Teachers in Guatemala are referred to as profesors.


Summary

Education in Guatemala has undergone much transformation since the ratification of the constitution in 1986. Increased attention to curriculum, multiculturalism, and social responsibility has strengthened the quality of education in Guatemala substantially. However, several future challenges still remain.

First, the government of Guatemala is committed to reducing illiteracy among its populace. Efforts to unify the nation in a common language, Spanish, is part of this directive. Not only does the Ministry of Education seek to improve Guatemalans' reading ability, but it remains determined to enhance students' background in other basics such as mathematics and foreign language.

Second, the government of Guatemala identifies the need to move its schools further into the information age by strengthening instruction in topics related to globalization and multiculturalism. Thanks to the Peace Accord Agreement of 1996 and a constitutional mandate to promote pluralism, the schools in Guatemala are making noteworthy progress toward this goal. Guatemala can continue to move forward by building and maintaining close educational ties with the United States and other countries in the Central America, Europe, and Asia.

Finally, Guatemala recognizes the importance of devoting more resources to its educational endeavors. Like many other countries, teachers in Guatemala are not highly paid, and technological innovations are slow to move into the country's rural schools. The current educational budget is inadequate for advancing widespread educational programs in the smaller cities and mountain areas. Increased internal funding, more participation from parents, more support from the private sector, and continued alliances with other countries will help bring about an even stronger commitment to moving all Guatemalan classrooms into the twenty-first century.

The government and people of Guatemala represent a strong commitment to learning, teaching, and developing. Guatemala's partnership with the United States and the world community at large demonstrate an exceptional willingness to assertively improve the quality of its education. With hard work, ingenuity, and continued support from its neighbors, Guatemala promises to take the lead in educational reform in Central and Latin America.


Bibliography

Embassy of Guatemala to the United States. Culture and Education, 2001. Available from http://www.guatemalaembassy.org/.


Guatemala's Country Profile, 2001. Available from http://www.quetzalnet.com/.

The Latin America Alliance. Guatemala, 2001. Available from http://www.latinsynergy.org/.

Latin America Network Information Center, the University of Texas. Guatemala, 2001.Available from http://www.lanic.utexas.edu/.


Universidad de Valle de Guatemala, 2001. Available from http://www.uvg.edu.gt/.

U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. Background Notes: Guatemala, 2001. Available from http://www.state.gov/.


William J. Wardrope

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Guatemala

Guatemala

Recipes

Picado de Rabano (Radish Salad)................................. 33
Frijoles Negros Volteados (Fried Black Bean Paste)....... 33
Guacamole.................................................................. 33
Spanish Tortilla ........................................................... 33
Arroz Guatemalteco (Guatemalan-Style Rice) .............. 34
Cucumber Soup.......................................................... 34
Bunuelos (Fried Fritters)............................................... 35
Hot Christmas Punch .................................................. 36
Pepinos Rellenos (Stuffed Cucumbers)......................... 36
Mantequilla de ajo casera (Garlic Butter) ..................... 37
Pan de Banano (Banana Bread) ................................... 37

1 GEOGRAPHIC SETTING AND ENVIRONMENT

Guatemala is located in Central America. It has an area of 108,890 square kilometers (42,043 square miles), slightly smaller than the state of Tennessee. Because of its consistently temperate climate, Guatemala has been called the "Land of Eternal Spring." Crops such as coffee, sugar, bananas, and cocoa are grown both for consumption in Guatemala and for export. Guatemala, with parts of Mexico and Honduras, occupies the Yucatán peninsula, where the lowland forest of Petén, once the home of the Mayas, is found. Guatemala's main environmental problems are caused by deforestationmore than 50 percent of the nation's forests have been destroyed since 1890. The nation's water supply is also at risk due to industrial and agricultural pollutants.

2 HISTORY AND FOOD

The history of Guatemala is often recognized in three stages: the Mayan Empire, Spanish rule, and the modern republic (which is in existence today). All three have had an influence on Guatemalan cuisine. The ancient Mayan civilization lasted for about six hundred years before collapsing around 900 A.D. These ancient natives lived throughout Central America and grew maize (corn) as their staple crop. In addition, the Maya ate amaranth, a breakfast cereal similar to modern day cereals.

Guatemala remained under Spanish rule from 1524 to 1821. Typical Spanish dishes, such as enchiladas, guacamole, tamales, and tortillas, began making their way into the Guatemalan diet. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, an empanada (meat turnover) could be purchased for about twenty-five cents, chicken tortillas for fifty cents each, and a hot beef sandwich for about seventy-five cents. Other countries and their cultures have also affected the Guatemalan diet, including the Chinese. Most Guatemalan cities and towns have at least one Chinese restaurant.

Guatemala became independent from Spain in 1821, and continues to remain independent. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, banana and coffee plantations were established. Sugarcane became another successful agricultural crop by the end of World War II (19391945).

3 FOODS OF THE GUATEMALANS

Guatemala does not have a national dish, but there are many foods that have become a part of the everyday diet. Just as during the time of the Mayans, corn continues to be a staple food. It is most often eaten in the form of a tortilla (a thin corn pancake). These are usually served warm and wrapped in cloth. Black beans (frijoles), another Mayan staple, are eaten at almost every meal. They are usually refried (volteados ), mashed, or simply eaten whole (parados ). Rice, eggs, and cheese are also widely consumed.

Chicken, turkey, and beef (roasted, grilled, or fried) are the country's most popular meats and are normally accompanied by beans and rice (frijoles con arroz ). Meats are often served in stews (caldos ) or cooked in a spicy chili sauce, though whole chickens may occasionally be served with the feet still attached. Pepián, a thick meat and vegetable stew, is a common dish in the area of Antigua (a town just outside of Guatemala City, the country's capital). Seafood is most common along the coasts, and is usually prepared with various spices.

Other popular dishes are bistec (grilled or fried beef), guacamole (mashed avocado with onions and spices), mosh (porridge), churrasco (charcoal-grilled steak), and chiles rellenos (chiles stuffed with meat and vegetables). Fresh fruits and vegetables, such as yucca, carrots, plantains, celery, cucumbers, and radishes, help to keep the Guatemalan diet healthy. However, snacks, such as doughnuts (donas ), are also widely popular.

Guatemalan coffee, which is most often exported, is considered some of the best in the world. Most Guatemalans, however, tend to drink weak coffee loaded with plenty of sugar. Rich, savory coffee is more commonly found in tourist areas. Aguas, soft drinks, are also abundant. Sweetened fruit juice mixed with either water or milk, called licuado, is a refreshing alternative.

Picado de Rabano (Radish Salad)

Ingredients

  • ½ pound radishes (about 20)
  • 12 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • Salt, to taste
  • ¼ cup of a mix containing orange juice and lemon juice

Procedure

  1. Trim the ends and slice the radishes.
  2. Combine sliced radishes with mint leaves, salt, and orange and lemon juice mix in a bowl and serve as a salad.

Serves 2 to 4.

Frijoles Negros Volteados (Fried Black Bean Paste)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups black bean puree (canned refried black beans)
  • 1 Tablespoon oil

Procedure

  1. Heat oil over moderate heat in a skillet.
  2. Add bean puree and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  3. Stir until the puree thickens and the liquid evaporates.
  4. Continue until mix begins to come away from skillet and can be formed by shaking the skillet to give a sausage shape.
  5. Serve warm with tortillas, cheese, sour cream, or bread.

Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon (or 1 cube chicken bouillon)
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Tomatoes and onions, chopped, to taste (optional)

Procedure

  1. Peel, remove the pit, and thoroughly mash the avocado.
  2. Add the bouillon and the minced garlic. Mix well.
  3. Add chopped tomatoes and onions, if desired.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Spanish Tortilla

Ingredients

  • 3 large, white potatoes, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 small red pepper, seeded and sliced
  • Flat-leaf parsley, minced

Procedure

  1. Skins may be left on the potatoes, if preferred. Slice the potatoes very thin.
  2. Heat 2 Tablespoons of the oil in a 9- or 10-inch skillet and sauté the potatoes and onion, stirring, until golden brown.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Beat the eggs and gently mix the potatoes with the eggs.
  5. In another frying pan, heat the remaining oil and pour in the potato and egg mixture.
  6. Cook over medium heat without stirring until set.
  7. With a plate, flip over and cook on the other side until browned. Garnish with pepper and parsley.

Arroz Guatemalteco (Guatemalan-Style Rice)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups long grain rice
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 1 cup mixed vegetables (carrots, celery, sweet red peppers, green peas), finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 cups chicken stock

Procedure

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and add rice.
  2. Sauté lightly until the rice has absorbed the oil, being careful not to let it change color.
  3. Add the mixed vegetables, salt, pepper, and chicken stock.
  4. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low.
  5. Cool for about 20 minutes until rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.

Serves 6 to 8.

Cucumber Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound pickling cucumbers (peel off skin, if waxed), chopped
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • Ground pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • ¼ cup plain, nonfat yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Procedure

  1. In a large saucepan, warm the oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the cucumbers, onions, and red pepper.
  3. Cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
  4. Stir in the chicken broth and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove from heat.
  6. In a blender or food processor, puree the soup until very smooth, and then return it to the saucepan.
  7. Bring to a simmer and season to taste with salt (optional) and pepper.
  8. Serve hot, topped with a Tablespoon of yogurt and a sprinkling of parsley.

Makes 4 servings.

4 FOOD FOR RELIGIOUS AND HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS

The majority of Guatemalans (approximately 60 percent) are Roman Catholic. The traditional Mayan religion, however, still exists and is widely popular throughout the country. Both religions have holiday and festival celebrations, although there are several special days throughout the year that are observed by everyone. The country is also home to several minority groups.

Christmas and Easter are two of the most widely celebrated holidays in Guatemala. The days before Christmas are filled with parties and various festivities, including decorating homes with manzanillas (small, yellow fruits) and watching fireworks. Tamales and punch are often served on Christmas Eve.

Holy Week, also known as Semana Santa, is celebrated the week before Easter. Guatemalans dress in colorful costumes to celebrate the week of festivities, which includes floats, music, and all types of food. Fish, chickpeas, torrejas (pastries similar to French toast), encurtidos (spicy vegetables with vinegar), and candied fruits are popular foods during this time. Those of Mayan descent often feast on tobic (vegetable, beef, and cabbage soup), kilim (chicken in a seasoned sauce, served with rice and potatoes), joch (a hot drink made of ground corn, barley, cinnamon, and brown sugar), and cooked fresh fruit, such as peaches or pears. Small doughnuts glazed with honey and cinnamon, called bunuelos (boon-WAY-lows), are popular holiday treats.

The first day of November marks All Saints Day, also known as the "Day of the Dead." Rather than a day of mourning, it is a time to celebrate the lives of loved ones that have passed away. To feel close to the dead, families often have a picnic on top of a loved one's grave.

Children's parties frequently feature pinatas, hollow decorations filled with toys and treats. Blindfolded children attempt to break open the pinata with a stick to release the treats inside. Weddings in Guatemala often feature bell-shaped pinatas that are filled with raw beans, rice, and confetti.

Bunuelos (Fried Fritters)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ pound butter
  • 3 eggs
  • Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Procedure

  1. Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Combine the water and butter in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Remove from heat, and use a wooden spoon to mix in the flour mixture.
  4. Mix in the eggs, 1 at a time.
  5. Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium to high heat.
  6. Shape the batter into balls about the size of a golf ball.
  7. Carefully slip them into the oil.
  8. Be sure not to crowd the skillet (cook separate batches, if necessary).
  9. Using the wooden spoon, keep moving the bunuelos around so they will puff up and brown evenly.
  10. When golden brown, remove them to a plate lined with paper towels.
  11. Top with cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar, or serve with a side of honey.
  12. Serve warm.

Makes about 30 bunuelos.

Hot Christmas Punch

Ingredients

  • 8 cups apple juice
  • 8 cups cranberry juice
  • 5 cinnamon sticks, broken
  • 5 oranges, sliced ¼-inch thick

Procedure

  1. Place all ingredients into a large, stainless kettle and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. Strain and serve hot.

Serves 8.

5 MEALTIME CUSTOMS

Guatemalans who live in urban areas generally eat three meals a day. Breakfast most often consists of coffee, eggs, beans, or toast with marmalade. Lunch is traditionally the largest meal. Soup is often served, followed by meat, rice, vegetables, and a simple salad. Fresh fruit or pudding may follow the meal. Dinner, eaten around 7 or 8 P.M., usually includes such foods as sweet bread, beans, artichokes, rice, lamb, or grilled snapper. Fried plantains, flan (caramel custard), or fresh fruit are popular desserts.

A rural diet normally contains more simple ingredients. The day may begin with coffee, black beans, and tortillas. A midmorning snack around 10 A .M. may be atole, a sweet corn drink. Following a traditionally large lunch, another snack, such as coffee and a sweet pastry, is usually enjoyed around 4 P.M. Eggs and vegetables often accompany black beans and tortillas (often made by combining ground cornmeal with lime juice) for dinner. Extremely poor Guatemalans sometimes eat little more than corn, beans, and fruit.

When guests are invited for dinner in a Guatemalan home, it is polite to bring a small gift to the hosts, such as candy or flowers, but most people prefer that the guest simply bring dessert.

Those dining at a restaurant will have several options for international cuisine: Spanish, Mexican, French, Italian, Chinese, Caribbean, and Mediterranean, to name a few. A 10 percent tip is suggested at most restaurants.

As an alternative to traditional food, American fast food chains have established themselves throughout the country. They provide quickly prepared meals and are relatively inexpensive. As of 2001, several of the most popular American chain restaurants existed in Guatemala, in addition to other chains.

Pepinos Rellenos (Stuffed Cucumbers)

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 cucumbers
  • ½ lime
  • 1 red pimiento chile (red pepper)
  • 1 small (3-ounce) package of cream cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon cream
  • 1 Tablespoon basil
  • 1 Tablespoon green onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch of paprika

Procedure

  1. Cut the cucumbers down the middle, lengthwise, peel and remove the seeds.
  2. Rub the cucumbers with lime juice, and salt and pepper.
  3. Cut the red pepper down the middle, remove the seeds, and dice into small pieces.
  4. Combine the cream cheese and cream together with the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  5. Fill the cucumbers with the mix and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  6. Cut into slices and serve. (May be served on a bed of lettuce leaves.)

Serves 6 to 10.

Mantequilla de ajo casera (Garlic Butter)

Ingredients

  • ½ pound unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Procedure

  1. Mix the ingredients in a bowl using a wooden spoon.
  2. When well mixed, place on aluminum foil and form into a ball.
  3. Refrigerate and use as desired.

Pan de Banano (Banana Bread)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 pound ripe bananas (about 2 or 3 large)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 egg, beaten well
  • 1½ cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Soften the butter to room temperature and mix it with the sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
  3. Mash the bananas and add it to the butter and sugar mixture.
  4. Add the salt, lemon juice, cinnamon, and egg.
  5. Sift the flour with the baking powder and slowly add it to the liquid mixture.
  6. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan, approximately 9 x 5 inches.
  7. Bake in oven for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. Serve with honey as a cake bread, or as a dessert with cream or ice cream.

6 POLITICS, ECONOMICS, AND NUTRITION

About 17 percent of the population of Guatemala is classified as undernourished by the World Bank. This means they do not receive adequate nutrition in their diet. Of children under the age of five, about 27 percent are underweight, and more than 50 percent are stunted (short for their age).

It is estimated that the poorest half of the population gets only 60 percent of the minimum daily caloric requirement. Malnutrition, alcoholism, and inadequate housing and sanitation pose serious health problems.

7 FURTHER STUDY

Books

Fodor's Travel Publications, Inc. Fodor's Upclose Central America. New York: Fodor's Travel Publications, 1999.

Footprint Handbooks Ltd. Mexico & Central America Handbook 2001, 11th ed. England: Footprint Handbooks, 2001.

Let's Go Publications. Let's Go: Central America. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

Lonely Planet. Lonely Planet Central America. 3rd ed. Victoria, Australia: Lonely Planet Publications, 1997.

Web Sites

Epicurious.com. [Online] Available http://www.epicurious.com (accessed February 23, 2001).

Guatemala. [Online] Available http://www.latinsynergy.org/guatemala.html (accessed February 23, 2001).

Guatemala. [Online] Available http://cwr.utoronto.ca/cultural/english2/guatemala/guatemalaENG.htm (accessed February 23, 2001).

Guatemala Cultural Tour. [Online] Available http://www.larutamayaonline.com/aventura.html (accessed February 27, 2001).

Guatemalan Food. [Online] Available http://www.atitlan.com/ (accessed February 23, 2001).

Latin American Recipes. [Online] Available http://www.ma.iup.edu/Pueblo/latino_cultures/recipes.html (accessed February 23, 2001).

Sally's Place for Food, Wine, and Travel. [Online] Available http://www.sallys-place.com/food/ethnic_cuisine/guatemala.htm (accessed February 23, 2001).

Semana Santa. [Online] Available http://casaxelaju.com/tours/semana/food.htm (accessed February 27, 2001).

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Guatemala (country, Central America)

Guatemala (gwätəmä´lə), officially Republic of Guatemala, republic (2005 est. pop. 14,655,000), 42,042 sq mi (108,889 sq km), Central America. The country is bounded on the north and west by Mexico, on the east by Belize and the Caribbean Sea, on the southeast by Honduras and El Salvador, and on the southwest by the Pacific Ocean. The capital and largest city is Guatemala City. In addition to the capital, important cities include Puerto Barrios, San José, Quezaltenango, and Antigua Guatemala.

Land and People

A highland region, where most of the population lives, cuts across the country from west to east. The rugged main range includes the inactive volcano Tajumulco, which is the highest point in Central America (13,816 ft/4,211 m). The range is flanked on the Pacific side by a string of volcanoes (some active), including Tacaná, Santa María, Acatenango, Fuego, and Agua. Volcanic eruptions, floods, and hurricanes have plagued Guatemala throughout history. In the center of the range is Lake Atitlán, and south of the highlands is the Pacific coastal lowland. North of them are the Caribbean lowland and the vast tropical forest known as Petén. Lake Petén Itzá is in N central Guatemala. The largest river is the Motagua, which flows into the Caribbean at the port of Puerto Barrios. North of the Motagua is the Lake Izabal–Río Dulce system, which was a major waterway in colonial times.

About 60% of the population is of mixed Mayan and Spanish descent (Ladinos) and about 40% are of purely Mayan origin. The latter have historically suffered from discrimination, poverty, and relative geographical isolation. Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion, and there are also Protestant and traditional Mayan minorities. Spanish is the language of about 60% of the people; the balance speak several indigenous dialects.

Economy

Coffee, sugar, and bananas are the leading commercial and export crops in Guatemala's mainly agricultural economy. There is some manufacturing, primarily of refined sugar, textiles and clothing for the U.S. market, furniture, and chemicals. Zinc and lead concentrates are mined. There are nickel and petroleum deposits in the north, and a petroleum industry has developed, although it has been limited by political unrest and environmentalist opposition. Extensive jade deposits are found in E central Guatemala. The Mayan town of Chichicastenango is a popular site for the nation's tourist industry. The leading imports include fuel, machinery, transportation equipment, construction materials, grain, fertilizers, and electricity. The United States, El Salvador, and Mexico are the major trading partners.

Government

Guatemala is governed under the constitution of 1986 as amended. It provides for a president who is popularly elected for four years and may not serve consecutive terms. The president is both head of state and head of government. Members of the 158-member, unicameral Congress of the Republic are also elected for four-year terms. Guatemala is divided administratively into 22 departments.

History

The Maya-Quiché (see Quiché) inhabited Guatemala long before the arrival of the Spanish. They were defeated (1523–24) by the Spaniard Pedro de Alvarado, who became captain general of Guatemala. The conquerors found little of the gold they sought, but cocoa and indigo were raised with forced labor. The first colonial capital, Santiago de Guatemala (Tecpán), was replaced in 1527 by Ciudad Vieja. A volcanic mud and debris flow destroyed the capital in 1541, and Antigua Guatemala was founded to replace it. After a series of earthquakes destroyed Antigua Guatemala in 1773, the capital was moved to its current location at Guatemala City. Central America became independent from Spain in 1821. Guatemala was first a part of the Mexican Empire of Agustín de Iturbide and then became a nucleus of the Central American Federation. After the federation collapsed, Guatemala became a separate nation (1839).

Guatemalan interference in the affairs of other Central American republics during the 19th and early 20th cent., under the conservative dictatorships of Rafael Carrera and Manuel Estrada Cabrera and under the liberal, Justo Ruffino Barrios, caused intense hostility and finally led to the Washington Conference of 1907, which established the Central American Court of Justice. Jorge Ubico became president in 1931, and his tenure was marked by repressive rule and an improvement in the nation's finances.

After Guatemala declared war on the Axis powers in 1941, the large German-owned coffee holdings were expropriated. Popular discontent led to Ubico's overthrow in 1944 and his replacement by Juan José Arévalo. Arévalo launched a series of labor and agrarian reforms that were continued by Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, who succeeded him in 1951. A law expropriating large estates angered foreign plantation owners, particularly the United Fruit Company. As Communist influence in the Arbenz government increased, relations with the United States deteriorated. In 1954 the United States aided the anti-Arbenz military force that placed Col. Carlos Castillo Armas in power. When Castillo Armas was assassinated three years later, Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes became president. Guatemalan bases were used to train anti-Castro guerrillas in the early 1960s; around the same time, dissident leftist military officers and students combined to form a guerrilla movement.

In 1963 the prospect of the return to power of Arévalo led to a military coup under the defense minister, Enrique Peralta Azurdia. However, leftist guerrilla activity and terrorism mounted, in turn provoking rightist repression. In 1966 the moderate leftist Julio César Méndez Montenegro was elected president; he allowed the army to conduct a major anti-insurgency campaign against the guerrillas in which thousands were killed. In Aug., 1968, in the continuing violence, the U.S. ambassador was assassinated.

In the 1970 election, Col. Carlos Arana Osorio, an extreme conservative, was chosen president. He imposed a one-year state of siege in an attempt to end the violence. In the early 1970s many labor and political leaders were killed and several foreign diplomats were kidnapped. When no candidate received an absolute majority in the presidential election of 1974, the legislature declared Gen. Kjell Laugerud García the winner, even though Gen. José Efraín Ríos Montt, the antigovernment candidate, had allegedly won a plurality.

Violence continued in the 1970s and 1980s, with reports that anti-insurgency campaigns were destroying Indian villages and killing tens of thousands. In 1977 the United States cut off military aid to Guatemala. After three elections widely regarded as fraudulent, Gen. Ríos Montt took power in a 1982 coup and ruled by decree; he was deposed the next year by another strongman, Gen. Óscar Mejía Victores. During the early 1980s leftist guerrillas formed what became known as the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union (URNG) and began an insurgency against the government.

A civilian reformist, Marco Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo, became president in 1985, after elections held under a new constitution, but his government did not seem to pose a substantial challenge to the power of the military. He was succeeded in 1990 by Jorge Serrano Elías, a right-wing businessman; Serrano adopted unpopular austerity measures, and in 1993, when he attempted to institute rule by decree, he was forced by the army to resign. Ramiro de León Carpio, the attorney general for human rights, was elected by the congress to succeed Serrano and won passage of anticorruption reforms.

In 1996, Álvaro Arzú Irigoyen, a former mayor of Guatemala City and foreign minister, won the presidency. He conducted a purge of top military officers and, in Dec., 1996, his government signed a UN-supervised peace accord with the URNG guerrillas, who subsequently regrouped as a political party. An estimated 200,000 persons died during the 36-year conflict. The 1999 presidential elections were won by Alfonso Portillo Cabrera, a lawyer and rightist associated with former dictator Ríos Montt and backed by the Guatemalan Republican Front. A draft settlement reached in 2002 with Belize concerning their disputed border contained maritime, but not land, concessions by Belize; the agreement must be approved by national referendums in both nations. In July, 2003, the government established a national compensation program to pay victims of human-rights violations that occurred during the civil war.

Óscar Berger Perdomo, a conservative former mayor of Guatemala City and the leader of the Grand National Alliance, won the presidency in Dec., 2003, after a runoff election. In the first round of voting in November, Ríos Montt made a bid for the presidency despite a ban on candidates who had overthrown a government. He came in third, and the November vote was marred by violence and intimidation that was largely blamed on his supporters.

In early 2004 former President Portillo was implicated in a corruption scandal, and he fled to Mexico; he was ultimately extradited to Guatemala in 2008. Some 10,000 soldiers were demobilized in May–June, 2004. UN supervision of the peace process ended in Dec., 2004.

Rains from Tropical Storm Stan caused flooding and mudslides in Oct., 2005, that resulted in hundreds of deaths in Guatemala. In 2006, the United Nations and Guatemala agreed to create the independent International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) to investigate and prosecute illegal groups responsible for corruption, organized crime, and political violence. Established in 2007, CICIG was designed to handle cases that might avoid prosecution due to the pervasiveness of organized crime and its ability to intimidate and corrupt law enforcement; it subsequently was responsible for prosecuting former President Portillo, two former national police chiefs, and other high ranking former officials. The case against Portillo and two of his ministers was dismissed in 2011, but in 2013 he was extradited to the United States on money-laundering charges and subsequently (2014) pleaded guilty.

In Nov., 2007, Álvaro Colom, a center-left business executive running as the National Union for Hope (UNE) candidate, won the presidency after a runoff. The presidential campaign was again marred by violence. In May, 2009, the murder of a lawyer, Rodrigo Rosenberg, created a political crisis when it was revealed he had made a video recording in which he accused the Colom administration of money-laundering drug money and said that if he was killed the president was to blame. The opposition called for Colom to resign; Colom denied the charges and suggested the recording was a right-wing attempt to destabilize his government. Both opponents and supporters of Colom mounted large demonstrations in the capital. Colom was cleared in Jan., 2010, by a CICIG investigation that determined that the lawyer surreptitiously contracted his own murder in an attempt to bring the government down.

In Dec., 2010, the government declared a state of siege in Alta Verapaz dept., in the N central part of the country, in order to regain control over the area's cities from a Mexican drug gang that had been operating there since 2008. A state of siege later (May, 2011) was declared in Petén dept. to the north after a drug-trafficking-related massacre there. President Colom and his wife, Sandra Torres, were divorced in May, 2011, in an attempt to circumvent the country's constitutional prohibition on the election of the president or a close relative to consecutive terms. Torres, who supervised the government's antipoverty efforts under her husband, was expected to be the UNE presidential candidate, but the courts rejected her candidacy. In the election, Otto Pérez Molina, a retired general running as the conservative Patriotic party candidate, won (November) after a runoff. In 2015, corruption investigations led to the resignation of the vice president (whose private secretary was accused of taking bribes) and led to calls that the president be investigated.

Bibliography

See R. N. Adams, Crucifixion by Power: Essays on Guatemalan National Social Structure, 1944–1966 (1970); T. Melville and M. Melville, Guatemala: The Politics of Land Ownership (1971); R. E. Moore, Historical Dictionary of Guatemala (rev. ed. 1973); J. Handy, Gift of the Devil: A History of Guatemala (1984); R. Nyrop, ed., Guatemala, a Country Study (1984); G. Grandin et al., ed., The Guatemala Reader (2011).

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Guatemala

Guatemala

Official name: Republic of Guatemala

Area: 108,890 square kilometers (42,042 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Tajumulco Volcano (4,211 meters/13,830 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Western

Time zone: 7 a.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 457 kilometers (284 miles) from south-southeast to north-northwest; 428 kilometers (266 miles) from east-northeast to west-southwest

Land boundaries: 1,687 kilometers (1,046 miles) total boundary length; Belize 266 kilometers (165 miles); El Salvador 203 kilometers (126 miles); Honduras 256 kilometers (159 miles); Mexico 962 kilometers (597 miles)

Coastline: 205 miles (330 kilometers)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)

1 LOCATION AND SIZE

Guatemala is located at the northwestern end of Central America and is bordered by Belize to the northeast, Honduras and El Salvador to the east, and Mexico to the north and west. Guatemala covers an area of 108,890 square kilometers (42,042 square miles), or slightly less than the state of Tennessee.

2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES

Guatemala has no territories or dependencies.

3 CLIMATE

The climate ranges from hot and humid in parts of the lowlands to very cold in the highlands, where frosts are common in some months and snow falls occasionally. Average annual temperatures at the coast range from 25°C to 30°C (77°F to 86°F); in the central highlands, they average 20°C (68°F); and in the higher mountain areas, they average 11°C (59°F). The rainy season lasts from May through October inland, and into December along the coast; the dry season thus extends from November (or January) to April. Annual rainfall is heavy in the El Petén, the largest geographic region, averaging 203 centimeters (80 inches) in the north and 441 centimeters (150 inches) in the south.

4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS

Most of the southern half of Guatemala consists of an interior upland region that includes high mountains and some thirty active volcanoes, as well as the plateaus and hills where the great majority of people live. There is a coastal plain to the south and swampy lowlands to the north.

5 OCEANS AND SEAS

In the east, Guatemala borders on the Caribbean Sea at the Gulf of Honduras. To the south lies the Pacific Ocean.

Sea Inlets and Straits

Amatique Bay, in the Gulf of Honduras, is 16 kilometers (10 miles) wide and 40 kilometers (25 miles) long.

Coastal Features

Guatemala's Pacific coast is straight and open, with no natural harbors and relatively shallow offshore waters. Long stretches of black sand line the coast, flanked by mangrove swamps and a coastal plain farther inland. The coast along the Gulf of Honduras is flat and open to Caribbean storms.

6 INLAND LAKES

There are two important lakes of volcanic origin in the Sierra Madre highlands. Lake Atitlán is said to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. The volcanoes Atitlán, San Pedro, and Toliman line its shores. The lake is over 304 meters (1,000 feet) deep in places. Lake Amatitlán, just south of Guatemala City, is smaller and less spectacular. Steam rises from this warm-water lake, and medicinal sulfur springs are found along its banks. In the east is Lake Izabal, the largest lake in the country (43 kilometers/27 miles long and 19 kilometers/12 miles wide). Lake Petén Itzá is in the north.

7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS

Guatemala's eighteen principal rivers, which flow from the mountains to the Pacific Ocean, are relatively short. The Motagua River, flowing east for about 402 kilometers (250 miles), serves as part of the boundary between Guatemala and Honduras. The Polochic River empties into Lake Izabal, the largest lake in the country. The outlet of Lake Izabal is the Dulce River, which flows into Amatique Bay. The Sarstún River, to the south, serves as the boundary between Belize and Guatemala and links the El Petén region with the coast. Farther to the north, the Usumacinta River flows northeast along the Mexican border before continuing into that country. The Belize River and the Azul River both rise in El Petén and empty into the Caribbean.

8 DESERTS

There are no deserts in Guatemala.

9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN

The swampy Polochic River-Lake Izabal lowland lies north of the Sierra de las Minas and the Mico Mountains. The Pacific coastal plain is predominantly savannah.

10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES

The Sierra Madre system extends from Mexico, through Guatemala, to El Salvador and Honduras; it includes several active volcanoes. The country's highest peak, Tajumulco, is part of this system. The Sierra de Chuacús branches due east from the Sierra Madre in the central part of the country. To the east-northeast lie the Sierra de las Minas and the Mico Mountains. The Sierra de los Cuchumatanes, a great limestone massif that enters Guatemala from Mexico in the northwest, ranges from 2,743 to 3,352 meters (9,000 to 11,000 feet). To the east lie the Sierra de Chama and the Sierra de Santa Cruz.

11 CANYONS AND CAVES

Deep ravines often separate the lava plateaus and ash-filled basins of the mountains; these can be difficult to cross, even on foot.

12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS

The vast area of El Petén, comprising about one-third of Guatemala, extends to the north of the mountain ranges into the Yucatan Peninsula at elevations between 152 and 213 meters (500 and 700 feet). Other smaller plateaus to the south reach elevations of 2,438 meters (8,000 feet).

13 MAN-MADE FEATURES

The Chiquimulilla Canal, which runs 112 kilometers (70 miles) from the port of San Jose to the Salvadoran border, is part of the coastal lagoon but has been dredged to allow river traffic.

DID YOU KNOW?

Tikal National Park contains a major center of the native Mayan civilization, which was inhabited from the sixth century b.c. to the tenth century a.d.

14 FURTHER READING

Books

Barry, Tom. Guatemala: A Country Guide. Albuquerque, NM: Inter-Hemispheric Education Resource Center, 1989.

Cummins, Ronnie. Guatemala. Milwaukee, WI: G. Stevens Children's Books, 1990.

Perl, Lila. Guatemala, Central America's Living Past. New York: Morrow, 1982.

Web Sites

Guatemala Online. http://www.quetzalnet.com/default.html (accessed June 17, 2003).

Lonely Planet Destination Guide. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/central_america/guatemala/ (accessed June 17, 2003).

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Guatemala

Guatemala

Country statistics

area:

108,890sq km (42,042sq mi) 11,237,196

capital (population):

Guatemala City (823,301)

government:

Multi-party republic

ethnic groups:

Ladino (mixed Hispanic and Native American) 45%, Mayan 43%, White 5%, Black 2%, others (including Chinese) 3%

languages:

Spanish (official)

religions:

Roman Catholic 73%, Protestant 25%, indigenous beliefs 2%

currency:

Guatemalan quetzal = 100 centavos

Republic in Central America. The Central American republic of Guatemala contains a densely populated fertile mountain region. The capital, Guatemala City, is situated here. The highlands run in an ew direction and contain many volcanoes. Guatemala is subject to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Tajmulco, an inactive volcano, is the highest peak in Central America, at 4211m (13,816ft).

South of the highlands lie the Pacific coastal lowlands. North of the highlands is the thinly populated Caribbean plain and the vast Petén tropical forest. Guatemala's largest lake, Izabal, drains into the Caribbean Sea.

Climate

Guatemala lies in the tropics and the lowlands are hot and rainy. The central mountain region is more temperate. Guatemala City, at c.1500m (5000ft) above sea level, has a pleasant, warm climate, with a marked dry season between November and April.

Vegetation

Hardwoods, such as mahogany, rubber, palm, and chicozapote (from which chicle, used in chewing gum, is obtained), grow in the tropical forests in the n, with mangrove swamps on the coast. Oak and willow grow in the highlands, with fir and pine at higher levels. Much of the Pacific plains is farmland.

History and Politics

Between ad 300 and 900, the Quiché branch of the Maya ruled much of Guatemala, but inexplicably abandoned their cities on the n plains. The Quiché ruins at Tikal are the tallest temple pyramids in the Americas. In 1523–24, the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado defeated the native tribes. In 1821, Guatemala became independent. From 1823–39, it formed part of the Central American Federation. Various dictatorial regimes interfered in the politics of other Central American states, arousing resentment and leading to the creation of the Central American Court of Justice. In 1941, Guatemala nationalized the German-owned coffee plantations. After World War 2, Guatemala embarked on further nationalization of plantations. In 1960, the mainly Quiché Guatemalan Revolutionary National Unity Movement (URNG) began a guerrilla war that claimed more than 200,000 lives. During the 1960s and 1970s, terrorism and political assassinations beset Guatemala. In 1976, an earthquake devastated Guatemala City, killing more than 22,000 people.

In 1983, Guatemala reduced its claims to Belize. In 1985, Guatemala elected its first civilian president for 15 years. Alvaro Arzú Irigoyen became president in 1996 elections, and a peace agreement with the URNG ended 35 years of civil war. Alfonso Portillo became president in 1999 elections, despite admitting to killing two men. In 2003, Oscar Berger became president.

Economy

Guatemala is a lower-middle-income developing nation (2000 GDP per capita, US$3700). Agriculture employs 50% of the workforce. Coffee, sugar, bananas and beef are leading exports. Other important crops are cardamom and cotton. Maize is the chief food crop, but Guatemala has to import food. Forestry is a major activity. Tourism and manufacturing are growing in importance. Manufacture: processed farm products, textiles, wood products, handicrafts.

Political map

Physical map

Websites

http://www.guatemala.travel.com.gt

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Guatemala

Guatemala

Culture Name

Guatemalan

Alternative Name

Chapines

Orientation

Identification. The name Guatemala, meaning "land of forests," was derived from one of the Mayan dialects spoken by the indigenous people at the time of the Spanish conquest in 1523. It is used today by outsiders, as well as by most citizens, although for many purposes the descendants of the original inhabitants still prefer to identify themselves by the names of their specific language dialects, which reflect political divisions from the sixteenth century. The pejorative terms indio and natural have been replaced in polite conversation and publication by Indígena. Persons of mixed or non-indigenous race and heritage may be called Ladino, a term that today indicates adherence to Western, as opposed to indigenous, culture patterns, and may be applied to acculturated Indians, as well as others. A small group of AfricanAmericans, known as Garifuna, lives on the Atlantic coast, but their culture is more closely related to those found in other Caribbean nations than to the cultures of Guatemala itself.

The national culture also was influenced by the arrival of other Europeans, especially Germans, in the second half of the nineteenth century, as well as by the more recent movement of thousands of Guatemalans to and from the United States. There has been increased immigration from China, Japan, Korea, and the Middle East, although those groups, while increasingly visible, have not contributed to the national culture, nor have many of them adopted it as their own.

Within Central America the citizens of each country are affectionately known by a nickname of which they are proud, but which is sometimes used disparagingly by others, much like the term "Yankee." The term "Chapín" (plural, "Chapines"), the origin of which is unknown, denotes anyone from Guatemala. When traveling outside of Guatemala, all its citizens define themselves as Guatemalans and/or Chapines. While at home, however, there is little sense that they share a common culture. The most important split is between Ladinos and Indians. Garifuna are hardly known away from the Atlantic coast and, like most Indians, identify themselves in terms of their own language and culture.

Location and Geography. Guatemala covers an area of 42,042 square miles (108,889 square kilometers) and is bounded on the west and north by Mexico; on the east by Belize, the Caribbean Sea, Honduras and El Salvador; and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. The three principal regions are the northern lowland plains of the Petén and the adjacent Atlantic littoral; the volcanic highlands of the Sierra Madre, cutting across the country from northwest to southeast; and the Pacific lowlands, a coastal plain stretching along the entire southern boundary. The country has a total of 205 miles (330 kilometers) of coastline. Between the Motagua River and the Honduran border on the southeast there is a dry flat corridor that receives less than forty inches (one hundred centimeters) of rain per year. Although the country lies within the tropics, its climate varies considerably, depending on altitude and rainfall patterns. The northern lowlands and the Atlantic coastal area are very warm and experience rain throughout much of the year. The Pacific lowlands are drier, and because they are at or near sea level, remain warm. The highlands are temperate. The coolest weather there (locally called "winter") occurs during the rainy season from May or June to November, with daily temperatures ranging from 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the higher altitudes, and from 60 to 70 degrees in Guatemala City, which is about a mile above sea level. "Summer" denotes the period between February and May, when the temperature during the day in Guatemala City often reaches into the 80s.

The Spanish conquerors preferred the highlands, despite a difficult journey from the Atlantic coast, and that is where they placed their primary settlements. The present capital, Guatemala City, was founded in 1776 after a flood and an earthquake had destroyed two earlier sites. Although the Maya had earlier inhabited the lowlands of the Petén and the lower Motagua River, by the time the first Spaniards arrived, they lived primarily in the Pacific lowlands and western highlands. The highlands are still largely populated by their descendants. The eastern Motagua corridor was settled by Spaniards and is still inhabited primarily by Ladinos. Large plantations of coffee, sugarcane, bananas, and cardamom, all grown primarily for export, cover much of the Pacific lowlands. These are owned by large, usually nonresident, landholders and are worked by local Ladinos and Indians who journey to the coast from highland villages for the harvest.

Demography. The 1994 census showed a total of 9,462,000 people, but estimates for 1999 reached twelve million, with more than 50 percent living in urban areas. The forty-year period of social unrest, violence, and civil war (19561996) resulted in massive emigration to Mexico and the United States and has been estimated to have resulted in one million dead, disappeared, and emigrated. Some of the displaced have returned from United Nations refugee camps in Mexico, as have many undocumented emigrants to the United States.

The determination of ethnicity for demographic purposes depends primarily on language, yet some scholars and government officials use other criteria, such as dress patterns and life style. Thus, estimates of the size of the Indian population vary from 35 percent to more than 50 percentthe latter figure probably being more reliable. The numbers of the non-Mayan indigenous peoples such as the Garifuna and the Xinca have been dwindling. Those two groups now probably number less than five thousand as many of their young people become Ladinoized or leave for better opportunities in the United States.

Linguistic Affiliation. Spanish is the official language, but since the end of the civil war in December 1996, twenty-two indigenous languages, mostly dialects of the Mayan linguistic family, have been recognized. The most widely spoken are Ki'che', Kaqchikel, Kekchi, and Mam. A bilingual program for beginning primary students has been in place since the late 1980s, and there are plans to make it available in all Indian communities. Constitutional amendments are being considered to recognize some of those languages for official purposes.

Many Indians, especially women and those in the most remote areas of the western highlands, speak no Spanish, yet many Indian families are abandoning their own language to ensure that their children become fluent in Spanish, which is recognized as a necessity for living in the modern world, and even for travel outside one's village. Since the various indigenous languages are not all mutually intelligible, Spanish is increasingly important as a lingua franca. The Academy of Mayan Languages, completely staffed by Maya scholars, hopes its research will promote a return to Proto-Maya, the language from which all the various dialects descended, which is totally unknown today. Ladinos who grow up in an Indian area may learn the local language, but bilingualism among Ladinos is rare.

In the cities, especially the capital, there are private primary and secondary schools where foreign languages are taught and used along with Spanish, especially English, German, and French.

Symbolism. Independence Day (15 September) and 15 August, the day of the national patron saint, María, are the most important national holidays, and together reflect the European origin of the nationstate, as does the national anthem, "Guatemala Felíz" ("Happy Guatemala"). However, many of the motifs used on the flag (the quetzal bird and the ceiba tree); in public monuments and other artwork (the figure of the Indian hero Tecún Umán, the pyramids and stelae of the abandoned and ruined Mayan city of Tikal, the colorful motifs on indigenous textiles, scenes from villages surrounding Lake Atitlán); in literature (the novels of Nobel laureate Miguel Angel Asturias) and in music (the marimba, the dance called son) are associated with the Indian culture, even when some of their elements originated in Europe or in precolonial Mexico. Miss Guatemala, almost always a Ladina, wears Indian dress in her public appearances. Black beans, guacamole, tortillas, chili, and tamales, all of which were eaten before the coming of the Spaniards, are now part of the national culture, and have come to symbolize it for both residents and expatriates, regardless of ethnicity or class.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Guatemala, along with other Central American Spanish colonies, declared its independence on 15 September 1821. Until 1839, it belonged first to Mexico and then to a federation known as the United Provinces of Central America. It was not until 1945 that a constitution guaranteeing civil and political rights for all people, including women and Indians, was adopted. However, Indians continued to be exploited and disparaged until recently, when international opinion forced Ladino elites to modify their attitudes and behavior. This shift was furthered by the selection of Rigoberta Menchú, a young Maya woman, for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.

Severe repression and violence during the late 1970s and 1980s was followed by a Mayan revitalization movement that has gained strength since the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996. While Mayan languages, dress, and religious practices have been reintroduced or strengthened, acculturation to the national culture has continued. Today more Indians are becoming educated at all levels, including postgraduate university training. A few have become professionals in medicine, engineering, journalism, law, and social work. Population pressure has forced many others out of agriculture and into cottage industries, factory work, merchandising, teaching, clerical work, and various white-collar positions in the towns and cities. Ironically, after the long period of violence and forced enlistment, many now volunteer for the armed forces.

Ethnic Relations. Some Ladinos see the Indian revitalization movement as a threat to their hegemony and fear that they will eventually suffer violence at Indian hands. There is little concrete evidence to support those fears. Because the national culture is composed of a blend of European and indigenous traits and is largely shared by Maya, Ladinos, and many newer immigrants, it is likely that the future will bring greater consolidation, and that social class, rather than ethnic background, will determine social interactions.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The Spanish imposed a gridiron pattern on communities of all sizes, which included a central plaza, generally with a public water fountain known as a "pila," around which were situated a Catholic church, government offices, and the homes of high-ranking persons. Colonial homes included a central patio with living, dining, and sleeping rooms lined up off the surrounding corridors. A service patio with a pila and a kitchen with an open fireplace under a large chimney was located behind the general living area. Entrances were directly off the street, and gardens were limited to the interior patios.

Those town and house plans persist, except that homes of the elite now tend to be placed on the periphery of the town or city and have modified internal space arrangements, including second stories. An open internal patio is still popular, but gardens now surround the house, with the whole being enclosed behind high walls. The older, centrally located colonial houses are now occupied by offices or have been turned into rooming houses or hotels.

Indian towns retain these characteristics, but many of the smaller hamlets exhibit little patterning. The housesmostly made of sun-dried bricks (adobe) and roofed with corrugated aluminum or ceramic tilesmay stretch out along a path or be located on small parcels of arable land. The poorest houses often have only one large room containing a hearth; perhaps a bed, table and chairs or stools; a large ceramic water jug and other ceramic storage jars; a wooden chest for clothes and valuables; and sometimes a cabinet for dishes and utensils. Other implements may be tied or perched on open rafters in baskets. The oldest resident couple occupies the bed, with children and younger adults sleeping on reed mats (petates ) on the floor; the mats are rolled up when not in use. Running water in the home or yard is a luxury that only some villages enjoy. Electricity is widely available except in the most remote areas. Its primary use is for light, followed by refrigeration and television.

The central plazas of smaller towns and villages are used for a variety of purposes. On market days, they are filled with vendors and their wares; in the heat of the day people will rest on whatever benches may be provided; in early evening young people may congregate and parade, seeking partners of the opposite sex, flirting, and generally having a good time. In Guatemala City, the central plaza has become the preferred site for political demonstrations.

The national palace faces this central plaza; although it once was a residence for the president, today it is used only for official receptions and meetings with dignitaries. More than any other building, it is a symbol of governmental authority and power. The walls of its entryway have murals depicting scenes honoring the Spanish and Mayan heritages. Other government buildings are scattered throughout the central part of Guatemala City; some occupy former residences, others are in a newer complex characterized by modern, massive, high-rising buildings of seven or eight floors. Some of these structures are adorned on the outside with murals depicting both Mayan and European symbols.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Corn made into tortillas or tamales, black beans, rice, and wheat in the form of bread or pasta are staples eaten by nearly all Guatemalans. Depending on their degree of affluence, people also consume chicken, pork, and beef, and those living near bodies of water also eat fish and shellfish. With improvements in refrigeration and transport, seafood is becoming increasingly popular in Guatemala City. The country has long been known for vegetables and fruits, including avocados, radishes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, beets, onions, and tomatoes. Lettuce, snow peas, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, artichokes, and turnips are grown for export and are also available in local markets; they are eaten more by Ladinos than by Indians. Fruits include pineapples, papayas, mangoes, a variety of melons, citrus fruits, peaches, pears, plums, guavas, and many others of both native and foreign origin. Fruit is eaten as dessert, or as a snack in-between meals.

Three meals per day are the general rule, with the largest eaten at noon. Until recently, most stores and businesses in the urban areas closed for two to three hours to allow employees time to eat at home and rest before returning to work. Transportation problems due to increased traffic, both on buses and in private vehicles, are bringing rapid change to this custom. In rural areas women take the noon meal to the men in the fields, often accompanied by their children so that the family can eat as a group. Tortillas are eaten by everyone but are especially important for the Indians, who may consume up to a dozen at a time, usually with chili, sometimes with beans and/or stews made with or flavored with meat or dried shrimp.

Breakfast for the well to do may be large, including fruit, cereal, eggs, bread, and coffee; the poor may drink only an atol, a thin gruel made with any one of several thickenersoatmeal, cornstarch, cornmeal, or even ground fresh corn. Others may only have coffee with sweet bread. All drinks are heavily sweetened with refined or brown sugar. The evening meal is always lighter than that at noon.

Although there are no food taboos, many people believe that specific foods are classified as "hot" or "cold" by nature, and there may be temporary prohibitions on eating them, depending upon age, the condition of one's body, the time of day, or other factors.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. The ceremonial year is largely determined by the Roman Catholic Church, even for those who do not profess that faith. Thus, the Christmas period, including Advent and the Day of the Kings on 6 January, and Easter week are major holidays for everyone. The patron saints of each village, town or city are honored on their respective days. The cofradia organization, imposed by the colonial Spanish Catholic Church, is less important now, but where it persists, special foods are prepared. Tamales are the most important ceremonial food. They are eaten on all special occasions, including private parties and celebrations, and on weekends, which are special because Sunday is recognized as being a holy day, as well as a holiday. A special vegetable and meat salad called fiambre is eaten on 1 November, the Day of the Dead, when families congregate in the cemeteries to honor, placate, and share food with deceased relatives. Codfish cooked in various forms is eaten at Easter, and Christmas is again a time for gourmet tamales and ponche, a rum-based drink containing spices and fruits. Beer and rum, including a fairly raw variety known as aguardiente are the most popular alcoholic drinks, although urban elites prefer Scotch whisky.

Basic Economy. Guatemala's most important resource is its fertile land, although only 12 percent of the total landmass is arable. In 1990, 52 percent of the labor force was engaged in agriculture, which contributed 24 percent of the gross domestic product. Although both Ladinos and Indians farm, 68 percent of the agricultural labor force was Indian in 1989. Forty-seven percent of Indian men were self-employed as farmers, artisans, or merchants; the average income for this group was only about a third of that for Ladino men. Agriculture accounts for about one-fourth of the gross domestic product.

The country has traditionally produced many agricultural products for export, including coffee, sugar, cardamom, bananas, and cotton. In recent years flowers and vegetables have become important. However, Guatemala is not self-sufficient in basic grains such as wheat, rice, and even maize, which are imported from the United States. Many small farmers, both Indian and Ladino, have replaced traditional subsistence crops with those grown for export. Although their cash income may be enhanced, they are forced to buy more foods. These include not only the basic staples, but also locally produced "junk" foods such as potato chips and cupcakes as well as condiments such as mayonnaise.

Affluent city dwellers and returning expatriates increasingly buy imported fruits, vegetables, and specialty items, both raw and processed. Those items come from neighboring countries such as Mexico and El Salvador as well as from the United States and Europe, especially Spain, Italy, and France.

Land Tenure and Property. The concept of private property in land, houses, tools, and machinery is well established even though most Indian communities have long held some lands as communal property that is allotted as needed. Unfortunately, many rural people have not registered their property, and many swindles occur, leading to lengthy and expensive lawsuits. As long as owners occupied their land and passed it on to their children or other heirs, there were few problems, but as the population has become more mobile, the number of disputes has escalated. Disputes occur within villages and even within families as individuals move onto lands apparently abandoned while the owners are absent. Sometimes the same piece of land is sold two or more times to different outside persons, often speculators from urban areas who discover the fraud only when they find another person occupying the land. Some land disputes have occurred when agents of the government have illegally confiscated property belonging to Indian communities. In other cases, homeless peasants have taken over unused land on large private plantations and government reserves.

Commercial Activities. Agricultural products are the goods most commonly produced for sale within the country and for export. Handicrafts have been produced and widely traded since precolonial times and are in great demand by tourists, museums, and collectors, and are increasingly exported through middlemen. The most sought after items include hand woven cotton and woolen textiles and clothing items made from them; baskets; ceramics; carved wooden furniture, containers, utensils and decorative items; beaded and silver jewelry; and hand-blown glassware. These items are made in urban and rural areas by both Ladinos and Indians in small workshops and by individuals in their own homes.

Assembly plants known as maquilas produce clothing and other items for export, using imported materials and semiskilled labor. Despite criticisms of this type of enterprise in the United States, many Guatemalans find it a welcome source of employment with relatively high wages.

Major Industries. Guatemala has many light industries, most of which involve the processing of locally grown products such as chicken, beef, pork, coffee, wheat, corn, sugar, cotton, cacao, vegetables and fruits, and spices such as cinnamon and cardamom. Beer and rum are major industries, as is the production of paper goods. A large plastics industry produces a wide variety of products for home and industrial use. Several factories produce cloth from domestic and imported cotton. Some of these products are important import substitutes, and others are exported to other Central American countries and the United States.

Division of Labor. In the Ladino sector, upper-class men and women work in business, academia, and the major professions. Older Ladino and Indian teenagers of both sexes are the primary workers in maquilas, a form of employment that increasingly is preferred to working as a domestic. Children as young as four or five years work at household tasks and in the fields in farming families. In the cities, they may sell candies or other small products on the streets or "watch" parked cars. Although by law all children must attend school between ages seven and thirteen, many do not, sometimes because there is no school nearby, because the child's services are needed at home, or because the family is too poor to provide transportation, clothing, and supplies. The situation is improving; in 1996, 88 percent of all children of primary age were enrolled in school, although only 26 percent of those of high school age were enrolled.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Social class based on wealth, education, and family prestige operates as a sorting mechanism among both Indians and Ladinos. Race is also clearly a component, but may be less important than culture and lifestyle, except in the case of the black Garifuna, who are shunned by all other groups. Individual people of Indian background may be accepted in Ladino society if they are well educated and have the resources to live in a Western style. However, Indians as a group are poorer and less educated than are non-Indians. In the 1980s, illiteracy among Indians was 79 percent, compared with 40 percent among Ladinos. In 1989, 60 percent of Indians had no formal education, compared with 26 percent of Ladinos. Indians with thirteen or more years of education earned about one-third less than did Ladinos with a comparable level of education.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Dress varies significantly by class and caste. Professional and white-collar male workers in the cities usually wear suits, dress shirts, and neckties, and women in comparable pursuits dress fashionably, including stockings and high-heeled shoes. Nonemployed upper-class women dress more casually, often in blue jeans and T-shirts or blouses. They frequent beauty salons since personal appearance is considered an important indicator of class.

Poorer Ladinos, whether urban or rural, buy secondhand clothing from the United States that is sold at low prices in the streets and marketplaces. T-shirts and sweatshirts with English slogans are ubiquitous.

Many Mayan women, regardless of wealth, education, or residence, continue to wear their distinctive clothing: a wraparound or gathered, nearly ankle-length skirt woven with tie-dyed threads that produce interesting designs, topped with a cotton or rayon blouse embroidered with flower motifs about the neck, or a more traditional huipil. The huipil is hand woven on a backstrap loom and consists of two panels sewn together on the sides, leaving openings for the arms and head. It usually is embroidered with traditional designs. Shoes or sandals are almost universal, especially in towns and cities. Earrings, necklaces, and rings are their only jewelry.

Indian men are more likely to dress in a Western style. Today's fashions dictate "cowboy" hats, boots, and shirts for them and for lower-class rural Ladinos. In the more remote highland areas, many men continue to wear the clothing of their ancestors. The revitalization movement has reinforced the use of traditional clothing as a means of asserting one's identity.

Political Life

Government. As of 1993, the president and vice-president and sixteen members of the eighty-member congress are elected by the nation as a whole for non-renewable four-year terms, while the remaining sixty-four members of the unicameral legislature are popularly elected by the constituents of their locales. Despite universal suffrage, only a small percentage of citizens vote.

There are twenty-two departments under governors appointed by the president. Municipalities are autonomous, with locally elected officials, and are funded by the central government budget. In areas with a large Mayan population, there have been two sets of local government leaders, one Ladino and one Mayan, with the former taking precedence. In 1996, however, many official or "Ladino" offices were won by Maya.

Leadership and Political Officials. Political parties range from the extreme right to the left and represent varying interests. Thus, their numbers, size, and electoral success change over time. It generally is believed that most elected officials use their short periods in office to aggrandize their prestige and line their pockets. Most take office amid cheering and accolades but leave under a cloud, and many are forced to leave the country or choose to do so. While in office, they are able to bend the law and do favors for their constituents or for foreigners who wish to invest or do business in the country. Some national business gets accomplished, but only after lengthy delays, debate, and procrastination.

Social Problems and Control. Since the signing of the Peace Accords in December 1996, there has been continued social unrest and a general breakdown in the system of justice. Poverty, land pressure, unemployment, and a pervasive climate of enmity toward all "others" have left even rural communities in a state of disorganization. In many Maya communities, their traditional social organization having been disrupted or destroyed by the years of violence, the people now take the law into their own hands. Tired of petty crime, kidnappings, rapes, and murders and with no adequate governmental relief, they frequently lynch suspected criminals. In the cities, accused criminals frequently are set free for lack of evidence, since the police and judges are poorly trained, underpaid, and often corrupt. Many crimes are thought to have been committed by the army or by underground vigilante groups unhappy with the Peace Accords and efforts to end the impunity granted to those who committed atrocities against dissidents.

Military Activity. In 1997, the army numbered 38,500. In addition, there is a paramilitary national police force of 9,800, a territorial militia of about 300,000, and a small navy and air force.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Guatemala has governmental and nongovernmental agencies that promote change in agriculture, taxes, banking, manufacturing, environmental protection, health, education, and human and civil rights.

Since 1945 the government has provided social security plans for workers, but only a small percentage of the populace has received these health and retirement benefits. There are free hospitals and clinics throughout the country, although many have inadequate equipment, medicines, and personnel. Free or inexpensive health services are offered as charities through various churches and by private individuals.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Among both Maya and Ladinos, women are associated primarily with the domestic world and men work in agriculture, business, and manufacturing. However, well-educated professional women are accepted and often highly respected; many are owners and managers of businesses. More of these women are Ladinas than Mayas. Statistically, women are less educated and lower paid than their male counterparts. Their numbers exceed those of males in nursing, secretarial, and clerical jobs. The teaching force at all levels has attracted women as well as men, but men predominate.

In rural areas, Maya women and men may engage in agriculture, but the crops they grow are different. Men tend to grow basic grains such as corn and beans as well as export crops such as green beans and snow peas. Women grow vegetables and fruits for local consumption and sale, as well as herbs and spices.

Handicrafts also tend to be assigned according to gender. Pottery is most often made by Indian women and Ladino men. Similarly, Indian women are the only ones who weave on backstrap or stick looms, while both Indian and Ladino men weave on foot looms. Indian men knit woolen shoulder bags for their own use and for sale. Men of both ethnicities do woodwork and carpentry, bricklaying, and upholstering. Indian men carve images of saints, masks, slingshots, and decorative items for their own use or for sale. Men and boys fish, while women and girls as well as small boys gather wild foods and firewood. Women and children also tend sheep and goats.

Rural Ladinas do not often engage in agriculture. They concentrate on domestic work and cottage industries, especially those involving sewing, cooking, and processing of foods such as cheese, breads, and candies for sale along the highways or in the markets.

The Relative Status of Men and Women. Indian and poor Ladino women (as well as children) are often browbeaten and physically mistreated by men. Their only recourse is to return to their parents' home, but frequently are rejected by the parents for various reasons. A woman from a higher-status family is less likely to suffer in this way, especially if her marriage has been arranged by her parents. While walking, a Maya woman traditionally trails her husband; if he falls drunk by the wayside, she dutifully waits to care for him until he wakes up.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriages are sometimes arranged in Maya communities, although most couples choose each other and often elope. Membership in private clubs and attendance at private schools provides a way for middle-class and upper-class young people to meet prospective mates. Parents may disapprove of a selection, but their children are likely able to persuade them. Marriages are celebrated in a civil ceremony that may be followed by a religious rite. Monogamy is the rule, although many men have a mistress as well as a wife. Among the poorer classes, both Mayan and Ladino, unions are free and ties are brittle; many children do not know, nor are they recognized by their fathers. Formal divorces are more common than many people believe, despite the disapproval of the Catholic Church. Until recently, a divorced woman did not have the right to retain her husband's surname; but she may sue for a share of his property to support herself and her minor children.

Domestic Unit. The nuclear family is the preferred and most common domestic unit. Among both Ladinos and Maya, a young couple may live at first in the home of the man's parents, or if that is inconvenient or overcrowded, with the parents of the woman. Wealthy Ladinos often provide elaborate houses close to their own homes as wedding presents for their sons and daughters.

Inheritance. Inheritance depends on a witnessed written or oral testament of the deceased, and since many people die without indicating their preferences, family disputes after death are very common among both Mayas and Ladinos. Land, houses, and personal belongings may be inherited by either sex, and claims may be contested in the courts and in intrafamily bickering.

Socialization

Infant Care. The children of middle-class and upper-class Ladinos are cared for by their mothers, grandmothers, and young women, often from the rural areas, hired as nannies. They tend to be indulged by their caretakers. They may be breastfed for a few months but then are given bottles, which they may continue using until four or five years. To keep children from crying or complaining to their parents, nannies quickly give them whatever they demand.

Maya women in the rural areas depend upon their older children to help care for the younger ones. Babies are breastfed longer, but seldom after two years of age. They are always close to their mothers during this period, sleeping next to them and carried in shawls on their backs wherever they go. They are nursed frequently on demand wherever the mother may be. Little girls of five or six years may be seen carrying tiny babies in the same way in order to help out, but seldom are they out of sight of the mother. This practice may be seen as education for the child as well as caretaking for the infant. Indian children are socialized to take part in all the activities of the family as soon as they are physically and mentally capable.

Child Rearing and Education. Middle-class and upper-class Ladino children, especially in urban areas, are not expected to do any work until they are teenagers or beyond. They may attend a private preschool, sometimes as early as eighteen months, but formal education begins at age seven. Higher education is respected as a means of rising socially and economically. Children are educated to the highest level of which they are capable, depending on the finances of the family.

Higher Education. The national university, San Carlos, has until recently had free tuition, and is still the least expensive. As a result, it is overcrowded, but graduates many students who would not otherwise be able to attain an education. There are six other private universities, several with branches in secondary cities. They grant undergraduate and advanced degrees in the arts, humanities, and sciences, as well as medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, law, engineering, and architecture. Postgraduate work is often pursued abroad by the better and more affluent students, especially in the United States, Spain, Mexico, and some other Latin American countries.

Etiquette

Etiquette varies considerably according to ethnicity. In the past, Indians were expected to defer to Ladinos, and in general they showed them respect and subservience at all times. In turn, they were treated by Ladinos as children or as persons of little worth. Some of those modes of behavior carried over into their own society, especially within the cofradia organization, where deliberate rudeness is considered appropriate on the part of the highest-ranking officers. Today there is a more egalitarian attitude on both sides, and in some cases younger Maya may openly show contempt for non-indigenous people. Maya children greet adults by bowing their heads and sometimes folding their hands before them, as in prayer. Adults greet other adults verbally, asking about one's health and that of one's family. They are not physically demonstrative.

Among Ladino urban women, greetings and farewells call for handshakes, arm or shoulder patting, embraces, and even cheek kissing, almost from first acquaintance. Men embrace and cheek kiss women friends of the family, and embrace but do not kiss each other. Children are taught to kiss all adult relatives and close acquaintances of their parents hello and goodbye.

In the smaller towns and until recently in the cities, if eye contact is made with strangers on the street, a verbal "good morning" or "good afternoon" is customary.

Religion

Religious Beliefs. Roman Catholicism, which was introduced by the Spanish and modified by Maya interpretations and syncretism, was almost universal in Guatemala until the early part of the twentieth century, when Protestantism began to make significant headway among both Ladinos and Maya. Today it has been estimated that perhaps 40 percent or more adhere to a Protestant church or sect ranging from established churches with international membership to small local groups celebrating their own set of beliefs under the leadership of lay pastors.

Many Maya combine membership in a Christian fellowship with a continued set of beliefs and practices inherited from their ancient ancestors. Rituals may still be performed to ensure agricultural success, easy childbirth, recovery from illness, and protection from the elements (including eclipses) and to honor and remember the dead. The Garifuna still practice an Afro-Caribbean form of ancestor worship that helps to meld together families broken by migration, plural marriages, and a social environment hostile to people of their race and culture.

Many of the indigenous people believe in spirits of nature, especially of specific caves, mountains, and bodies of water, and their religious leaders regularly perform ceremonies connected with these sites. The Catholic Church has generally been more lenient in allowing or ignoring dual allegiances than have Protestants, who tend to insist on strict adherence to doctrine and an abandonment of all "non-Christian" beliefs and practices, including Catholicism.

Medicine and Health Care

Although excellent modern medical care is available in the capital city for those who can afford it and even for the indigent, millions of people in the rural areas lack adequate health care and health education. The medical training at San Carlos University includes a field stint for advanced students in rural areas, and often these are the only well-trained medical personnel on duty at village-level government-run health clinics.

The less well educated have a variety of folk explanations and cures for disease and mental illnesses, including herbal remedies, dietary adjustments, magical formulas, and prayers to Christian saints, local gods, and deceased relatives.

Most births in the city occur in hospitals, but some are attended at home by midwives, as is more usual in rural areas. These practitioners learn their skills from other midwives and through government-run courses.

For many minor problems, local pharmacists may diagnose, prescribe, and administer remedies, including antibiotics.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. The Ministry of Culture provides moral and some economic support for the arts, but most artists are self-supporting. Arts and handicrafts are important to all sectors of the population; artists are respected and patronized, especially in the cities where there are numerous art galleries. Even some of the smaller towns, such as Tecpán, Comalapa and Santiago de Atitlán offer paintings by local artists for sale to both foreign and Guatemalan visitors. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of indigenous "primitive" painters, some of whom are known internationally. Their products form an important part of the wares offered to tourists and local collectors. Non-indigenous painters are exhibited primarily in the capital city; these include many foreign artists as well as Guatemalans.

Graphic Arts. Textiles, especially those woven by women on the indigenous backstrap loom, are of such fine quality as to have been the object of scholarly study. The Ixchel Museum of Indian Textiles, located in Guatemala City at the Francisco Marroquín University, archives, preserves, studies, and displays textiles from all parts of the country.

Pottery ranges from utilitarian to ritual wares and often is associated with specific communities, such as Chinautla and Rabinal, where it has been a local craft for centuries. There are several museums, both government and private, where the most exquisite ancient and modern pieces are displayed.

Performance Arts. Music has been important in Guatemala since colonial times, when the Catholic Church used it to teach Christian doctrine. Both the doctrine and the musical styles were adopted at an early date. The work of Maya who composed European-style classical music in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries has been revived and is performed by several local performance groups, some using replicas of early instruments. William Orbaugh, a Guatemalan of Swiss ancestry, is known internationally for performances of classical and popular guitar music. Garifuna music, especially that of Caribbean origin, is popular in both Guatemala and in the United States, which has a large expatriate Garifuna population. Other popular music derives from Mexico, Argentina, and especially the United States. The marimba is the popular favorite instrument, in both the city and in the countryside.

There is a national symphony as well as a ballet, national chorus, and an opera company, all of which perform at the National Theater, a large imposing structure built on the site of an ancient fort near the city center.

Theater is less developed, although several private semiprofessional and amateur groups perform in both Spanish and English. The city of Antigua Guatemala is a major center for the arts, along with the cities of Guatemala and Quetzaltenango.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Although the country boasts six universities, none is really comprehensive. All of the sciences are taught in one or another of these, and some research is done by professors and advanced students especially in fields serving health and agricultural interests, such as biology, botany, and agronomy. Various government agencies also conduct research in these fields. However, most of those doing advanced research have higher degrees from foreign universities. The professional schools such as Dentistry, Nutrition, and Medicine keep abreast of modern developments in their fields, and offer continuing short courses to their graduates.

Anthropology and archaeology are considered very important for understanding and preserving the national cultural patrimony, and a good bit of research in these fields is done, both by national and visiting scholars. One of the universities has a linguistics institute where research is done on indigenous languages. Political science, sociology, and international relations are taught at still another, and a master's degree program in development, depending on all of the social sciences, has recently been inaugurated at still a third of the universities. Most of the funding available for such research comes from Europe and the United States, although some local industries provide small grants to assist specific projects.

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Steele, Diane. "Guatemala." In Las poblaciones indígenas y. la pobreza en América Latina: Estudio Empírico, 1999.

Stephen, D. and P. Wearne. Central America's Indians, 1984.

Tedlock, Barbara. Time and the Highland Maya, 1990.

Tedlock, Dennis. Popul Vuh: The Definitive Edition of the Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life and the Glories of the Gods and Kings, 1985.

Urban, G. and J. Sherzer, eds. NationStates and Indians in Latin America, 1992.

Warren, Kay B. Indigenous Movements and Their Critics: Pan-Maya Activism in Guatemala, 1998.

Watanabe, John. Maya Saints and Souls in a Changing World, 1992.

Whetten, N. L. Guatemala, The Land and the People, 1961.

Woodward, R. L. Guatemala, 1992.

World Bank. World Development Indicators, 1999.

Nancie L. GonzÁlez

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Guatemala

Guatemala

GUATEMALANS 31

The people of Guatemala are called Guatemalans. The population has a larger proportion of Amerindians (native people) than any other country in Central America. Amerindians are estimated to be more than 50 percent of the total. Persons of mixed Amerindian and white ancestry, called mestizos, constitute about 42 percent. Blacks and mulattoes (mixed race) make up another 4 percent. The white population is estimated at about 1 percent.

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Guatemala

Guatemala

SeeLatin America

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Guatemala

GuatemalaAllah, calla, Caracalla, Haller, inshallah, pallor, Valhalla, valour (US valor), Whyalla •gabbler, tabla •ambler, gambler, rambler, scrambler •Adler, saddler •handler •angler, dangler, strangler, wrangler •tackler • trampler • antler • dazzler •Carla, challah, Douala, gala, Guatemala, Gujranwala, impala, kabbala, Kampala, koala, La Scala, Lingala, Mahler, Marsala, masala, nyala, parlour (US parlor), Sinhala, snarler, tala, tambala, Uppsala •garbler • chandler • sparkler •sampler •a cappella, Arabella, Bella, bestseller, Capella, cellar, Cinderella, citronella, Clarabella, corella, Daniela, Della, dispeller, dweller, Ella, expeller, favela, fella, fellah, feller, Fenella, Floella, foreteller, Heller, impeller, interstellar, Keller, Louella, Mandela, mortadella, mozzarella, Nigella, novella, paella, panatella, patella, predella, propeller, queller, quinella, repeller, rosella, rubella, salmonella, Santiago de Compostela, seller, smeller, speller, Stella, stellar, tarantella, teller, umbrella, Viyella •Puebla •assembler, dissembler, trembler •medlar, pedlar •ländler •fin de siècle, Hekla •Kepler •exempla, exemplar, Templar •tesla, wrestler •embezzler • Rockefeller •knee-trembler • saltcellar •bookseller • storyteller

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Guatemala

GUATEMALA

GUATEMALA , Central American republic, population 14,280,596 (2004); Jewish population 833 (1999).

Community History

Documents in the archives of the Mexican Inquisition attest to the presence of *Crypto-Jews in Guatemala during the colonial period. The first known immigrants to the country were German-speaking Jews entering Guatemala at the end of the 19th century. Most of them settled in Quetzaltenango and engaged in the sale of clothes and textiles in the coffee plantations. Following the earthquake of 1902 and the fall of coffee prices, the German Jews moved to Guatemala City, where they established in 1913 the Sociedad Israelita de Guatemala in order to provide for their religious and social needs. The community formed by these immigrants was small and isolated from the Jewish world, and its descendants are no longer Jews.

The origins of the present-day Jewish community date from the second decade of the 20th century. According to the data collected in the census survey made in 1999, the Jewish immigrants to Guatemala came from Syria, Iraq, Jerusalem, Panama, Jamaica (originally from England), and Turkey. The list extends also to Jews from Lebanon, Egypt, Poland, Russia, and the United States. The Sephardi Jews settled in Guatemala during the first and second decades of the 20th century. They started as poor peddlers in the provincial towns, and gradually moved to Guatemala City, where in 1923 they founded the Sociedad Israelita Maguén David. The East European Jews arrived in the 1920s following the restrictions on immigration imposed by the United States. Most of them were poor artisans, and they were assisted by the local Jews, particularly by the Maguén David. Jewish immigration in the 1930s consisted of Czechs and Germans as well as Jews from Jerusalem, Panama, and Poland.

At the beginning of the 20th century the liberal Guatemalan governments favored the immigration of foreigners who wished to settle in the country, allowing them to develop economically, socially, and culturally. This motivated the first groups of Jewish immigrants to Guatemala. Policy took a negative turn in 1944, when the president of the Republic, General Jorge Ubico, promulgated Decree No. 1241 of the Law of Foreigners, whose First Article prohibited "the entrance and permanent settlement in the country of foreigners occupied as peddlers" (para. 21–22), this being the trade of many of the Jews who had just arrived in the country.

Laws limiting immigration were rarely enforced after World War ii, when Polish, Czech, and German Holocaust survivors entered the country. From the 1950s (through to the early 21st century) the Jews who immigrated to the country arrived from the most varied areas of the globe, with the main reason being marriage to members of the Jewish community of Guatemala or occupational mobility.

Demography

In 1999, there were 833 Jews in the country (400 women and 433 men), with a fertility rate of 2.7 children. The number of Jews in Guatemala never exceeded 1,200 (data calculated by the members of the community in the 1950s).

A singular characteristic is that 36% of Guatemalan Jews between 18 and 45 years live abroad (mainly in the United States). This is caused by two factors: (1) most of those who lived abroad for many years embarked on their professional careers in the country where they received their higher education, settling there permanently (66% of those who emigrated pointed to the lack of economic opportunity as the main cause of their emigration); (2) marriage: 38% of marriages with Jews from other countries resulted in immigration of the Guatemalan Jew to the country of residence of his or her spouse.

According to the 1965 census, the community had 74 mixed marriages, accounting for 27.2% of the Jewish population. In the 1999 census, only 6% of the members were married to non-Jews, while 12% were married to men and women who had converted to Judaism.

Communal Life

The first synagogue, inaugurated on August 11, 1938, was constructed by the Sephardi community Maguén David and provided for the religious needs of Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews alike. In 1941 the Ashkenazi Jews founded their own organization, the Associacion Centro Hebreo, which opened its Shaaréi Biniamín synagogue (Orthodox) in 1968. Between 1969 and 1989 the Bet-El Synagogue (Conservative) operated, with a majority of members of West European origin. Centro Hebreo and Bet-El merged in 1989 under the name of the former.

The first organization that represented the Guatemalan Jews vis-à-vis the national and international authorities was the Sociedad Israelita de Guatemala (founded 1913). In 1968 it was replaced by the Comité Central de la Comunidad Judia de Guatemala. In 1981 the Comunidad Judía de Guatemala (called since 1994 Comunidad Judía Guatemalteca) or Guatemalan Jewish Community (gjc) was founded as the representative organ and the Jewish umbrella organization, responsible for the Jewish educational institutions (Gan Hillel, Tarbut, Talmud Torah, Mechon Noar, Maccabi ha-Ẓa'ir), social, sports, and cultural activities, the organization of groups of all the ages, the cemeteries, relations with local and international institutions (Jewish and general), and every matter related to the communal life of Guatemalan Jews.

Education, Culture, and Zionism

Between 1958 and 1976 there was a Jewish day school called the Albert Einstein (later Salomón Blenkitny). In the early 21st century there was a daily kindergarten, Gan Hillel, and supplementary schools that are open from one to three times a week. These are Tarbut, Talmud Torah, Mechon Noar, and the Machon leMadrijim.

A youth organization was founded in 1943 under the name of Young Centro Hebreo, and two years later it affiliated with the Maccabi World Union, creating Maccabi Ha-Ẓair Guatemala, active until the present.

Between 1994 and 2004 the gjc developed large building projects: the construction of a Jewish Community Center (finalized in 1995), which united all the educational, social, religious, and Zionist organizations, and the Har Carmel project, being an enormous stretch of land with 200 lots earmarked for housing for members of the gjc.

Most Zionist organizations have a representative in the country as well as in some of the international ones: Keren Hayesod, Keren Kayemet, wizo, Zionist Federation, Maccabi World Union, B'nai B'rith, and others.

It should be emphasized that 69% of Guatemalan Jews declare themselves Zionists, and that all the members of the gjc are affiliated with the above-mentioned institutions.

The following periodicals were published by the community organizations: Abucah ("Torch"), 1943–45; The Maccabee, 1959–60; Mabat, 1978–86; Kadima, 1992–99; and Beyajad, from 1999.

gjc's relations with guatemalan organizations

The number of affiliations of the Jewish community, as muchon the individual level as on the institutional level, is very large. Guatemalan Jews are members, leaders, or cooperate in institutions such as Junkabal (Edgar Heinemann, chairman), the Guatemalan Red Cross (Max Russ, director), children's day care (Samuel Camhi, founder and benefactor; Enriqueta Engel, president), League against Cancer (Margot Halfon, deputy chairperson; Rosa Luchtan, director; Eduardo Halfon, director), volunteer and municipal fire departments (Max Russ, president; Max Trachtenberg, president; Moises Russ, director; Isaac Farchi, deputy chairman), Santa Lucia Orphanage (Sara Dreiffus, president), cacif (Alberto Habie, president), Roosevelt Hospital (Irene Neumann and Sol Berkowitz, directors), Rotary Club (Tomas Rybar, president; Marcel Ruff, president), Municipality of Guatemala City (Roberto Stein, deputy mayor), Guatemalan Association of Journalism (Isidoro Zarco, president), Chamber of Commerce (Jaime Camhi, vice president; Moris Farchi, director), Chamber of Industry (Moises Russ, director; Alberto Habie, president; Joe Habie, director), National Congress (congressmen Isaac Farchi, Roberto Stein, Dr. Julio Sultán, Manfredo Lippman), ministries (Dr. Julio Sultán), embassies (Dr. Gert Rosenthal, ambassador at the un; Moises Russ, ambassador in Israel), incap (Dr. Benjamin Torun, scientist, director of Research), Bricks for Guatemala City of Sanarate Reconstruction Committee (Margot Halfon, president; Marcel Ruff, general secretary), National Social Welfare Committee (Bella Russ, chairperson), ypo (Roberto Tenenbaum, president), Garden Club of Guatemala (Brenda de Rich, president), fundap (Jaime Camhi, director), universities, volunteer groups in hospitals, fundesa (Manuel Yarhi, president; Jaime Camhi, president; Edgar Heinemann, president; Mario Nathusius, president), Cepal (Dr. Gert Rosenthal, secretary general), primary and secondary schools (Mario Nathusius, president; Saul Mishaan, president; Victor Cohen, director), National Bicycle Federation (Jaime Russ, president), as well as representing Guatemala in sports, science, chess, and more.

Four members of the Jewish community have been awarded the Vatican Order of Pope St. Sylvester: Moises Russ, Bella Russ, Margot Halfon, and Dr. Jacobo Sabbaj.

Relations with Israel

Guatemala had a crucial role in the vote on the partition of Palestine. The Guatemalan ambassador to the United Nations in 1947, Jorge García Granados, was a member of the un Special Commission for Palestine (unscop). Backed by the president of Guatemala, Dr. Juan José Arevalo, he worked tirelessly for the establishment of a Jewish state in a part of Palestine. His book The Birth of Israel was published in 1949. The two governments have engaged in various projects cooperatively. Guatemala demonstrated its support of the Jewish State in numerous votes in favor of Israel within the framework of the United Nations.

bibliography:

F. Tenenbaum (ed.), La comunidad Jud ía de Guatemala (1963). add. bibliography: J. García Granados, Así nació Israel (20032); C. Tapiero, La Comunidad Jud ía de Guatemala: Estudio sociodemográfico, e identidad cultural y religiosa (2000); S. Aldana and C. Siboni, Historia de la Comunidad Judía Guatemalteca, Primera parte: 18981944 (1995); J. Russ, Historia de la Comunidad Judía Guatemalteca, Segunda parte: 19452000 (2000).

[David Algaze /

Carlos A. Tapiero (2nd ed.)]

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Guatemala

Guatemala

PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
NATIONAL SECURITY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-GUATEMALAN RELATIONS
TRAVEL

Compiled from the January 2008 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Republic of Guatemala

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 108,890 sq. km. (42,042 sq.mi.); about the size of Tennessee.

Cities: Capital—Guatemala City (metro area pop. 2.5 million). Other major cities—Quetzaltenango, Escuintla.

Terrain: Mountainous, with fertile coastal plain.

Climate: Temperate in highlands;tropical on coasts.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Guatemalan(s).

Population: (2007 est.) 13.3 million.

Annual population growth rate: (2006 est.) 2.4%.

Ethnic groups: Mestizo (mixed Spanish-Indian), indigenous.

Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, traditional Mayan.

Languages: Spanish, 24 indigenous languages (principally Kiche, Kaqchikel, Q’eqchi, and Mam).

Education: Years compulsory—6. Attendance—41%. Literacy—70.6%.

Health: Infant mortality rate (2005)—32/1,000. Life expectancy (2005)—69 yrs.

Work force: Services—40%; industry and commerce—37%; agriculture—15%; construction, mining, utilities—4%. Fifty percent of the population engages in some form of agriculture, often at the subsistence level outside the monetized economy.

Government

Type: Constitutional democratic republic.

Constitution: May 1985; amended November 1993.

Independence: September 15, 1821.

Government branches: Executive—president (4-year term; 1 term limit). Legislative—unicameral 158-member Congress (4-year term). Judicial—13-member Supreme Court of Justice (5-year term).

Political subdivisions: 22 departments (appointed governors); 331 municipalities with elected mayors and city councils.

Political parties: National Union for Hope (UNE), Grand National Alliance (GANA), Patriot Party (PP), Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG), National Advancement Party (PAN), Unionists (Unionistas), Encounter for Guatemala (EG).

Suffrage: Universal for adults 18 and over who are not serving on active duty with the armed forces or police. A variety of procedural obstacles have historically reduced participation by poor, rural, and indigenous people, but implementation in 2007 of voting reform legislation nearly doubled the number of voting tables, resulting in higher participation in rural areas, including among indigenous people.

Economy

Real GDP: (2007 est.) $24.13 billion.

Real GDP growth: (2007 est.) 5.7%.

Per capita GDP PPP: (2006) $4,317.

Natural resources: Oil, timber, nickel, gold.

Agriculture: (13.3% of GDP) Products—coffee, sugar, bananas, cardamom, vegetables, flowers and plants, timber, rice, rubber.

Manufacturing: (18% of GDP) Types—prepared food, clothing and textiles, construction materials, tires, pharmaceuticals.

Trade: (2006 est.) Exports—$6.0 billion: coffee, bananas, sugar, crude oil, chemical products, clothing and textiles, vegetables. Major markets-U.S. 46.2%, Central American Common Market (CACM) 27.2%, Mexico 5.9%. Imports—$11.9 billion: machinery and equipment, fuels, mineral products, chemical products, vehicles and transport materials, plastic materials and products. Major suppliers—U.S. 34.5%, CACM 9.7%, Mexico 7.9%, Japan 2.7%, Germany 1.7%.

PEOPLE

More than half of Guatemalans are descendants of indigenous Mayan peoples. Westernized Mayans and mestizos (mixed European and indigenous ancestry) are known as Ladinos. Most of Guatemala's population is rural, though urbanization is accelerating. The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism, into which many indigenous Guatemalans have incorporated traditional forms of worship. Protestantism and traditional Mayan religions are practiced by an estimated 40% and 1% of the population, respectively. Though the official language is Spanish, it is not universally understood among the indigenous population. The peace accords signed in December 1996 provide for the translation of some official documents and voting materials into several indigenous languages.

HISTORY

The Mayan civilization flourished throughout much of Guatemala and the surrounding region long before the Spanish arrived, but it was already in decline when the Mayans were defeated by Pedro de Alvarado in 1523-24. The first colonial capital, Ciudad Vieja, was ruined by floods and an earthquake in 1542. Survivors founded Antigua, the second capital, in 1543. Antigua was destroyed by two earthquakes in 1773. The remnants of its Spanish colonial architecture have been preserved as a national monument. The third capital, Guatemala City, was founded in 1776.

Guatemala gained independence from Spain on September 15, 1821; it briefly became part of the Mexican Empire, and then for a period belonged to a federation called the United Provinces of Central America. From the mid-19th century until the mid-1980s, the country passed through a series of dictatorships, insurgencies (particularly beginning in the 1960s), coups, and stretches of military rule with only occasional periods of representative government.

1944 to 1986

In 1944, Gen. Jorge Ubico's dictatorship was overthrown by the “October Revolutionaries,” a group of dissident military officers, students, and liberal professionals. A civilian President, Juan Jose Arevalo, was elected in 1945 and held the presidency until 1951. Social reforms initiated by Arevalo were continued by his successor, Col. Jacobo Arbenz. Arbenz permitted the communist Guatemalan Labor Party to gain legal status in 1952. The army refused to defend the Arbenz government when a U.S.-backed group led by Col. Carlos Castillo Armas invaded the country from Honduras in 1954 and quickly took over the government. Gen. Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes took power in 1958 following the murder of Colonel Castillo Armas.

In response to the increasingly autocratic rule of Ydigoras Fuentes, a group of junior military officers revolted in 1960. When they failed, several went into hiding and established close ties with Cuba. This group became the nucleus of the forces that were in armed insurrection against the government for the next 36 years. Four principal leftwing guerrilla groups—the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP), the Revolutionary Organization of Armed People (ORPA), the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR), and the Guatemalan Labor Party (PGT)—conducted economic sabotage and targeted government installations and members of government security forces in armed attacks. These organizations combined to form the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) in 1982.

Shortly after President Julio Cesar Mendez Montenegro took office in 1966, the army launched a major counterinsurgency campaign that largely broke up the guerrilla movement in the countryside. The guerrillas then concentrated their attacks in Guatemala City, where they assassinated many leading figures, including U.S. Ambassador John Gordon Mein in 1968. Between 1966 and 1982, there was a series of military or military-dominated governments.

On March 23, 1982, army troops commanded by junior officers staged a coup to prevent the assumption of power by Gen. Angel Anibal Guevara, the hand-picked candidate of outgoing President and Gen. Romeo Lucas Garcia. They denounced Guevara's electoral victory as fraudulent. The coup leaders asked retired Gen. Efrain Rios Montt to negotiate the departure of Lucas and Guevara.

Rios Montt was at this time a lay pastor in the evangelical protestant “Church of the Word.” He formed a three-member military junta that annulled the 1965 constitution, dissolved Congress, suspended political parties, and canceled the electoral law. After a few months, Rios Montt dismissed his junta colleagues and assumed the de facto title of “President of the Republic.”

Guerrilla forces and their leftist allies denounced Rios Montt. Rios Montt sought to defeat the guerrillas with military actions and economic reforms; in his words, “rifles and beans.” The government began to form local civilian defense patrols (PACs). Participation was in theory voluntary, but in reality, many Guatemalans, especially in the heavily indigenous northwest, had no choice but to join either the PACs or the guerrillas. Rios Montt's conscript army and PACs recaptured essentially all guerrilla territory—guerrilla activity lessened and was largely limited to hit-and-run operations. However, Rios Montt won this partial victory at an enormous cost in civilian deaths, in what was probably the most violent period of the 36-year internal conflict, resulting in about 200,000 deaths of mostly unarmed indigenous civilians.

On August 8, 1983, Rios Montt was deposed by his own Minister of Defense, Gen. Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores, who succeeded him as de facto President of Guatemala. Rios Montt survived to found a political party (the Guatemalan Republic Front) and to be elected President of Congress in 1995 and 2000. Awareness in the United States of the conflict in Guatemala, and its ethnic dimension, increased with the 1983

publication of the book I, Rigoberta Menchu, An Indian Woman in Guatemala.

General Mejia allowed a managed return to democracy in Guatemala, starting with a July 1, 1984 election for a Constituent Assembly to draft a democratic constitution. On May 30, 1985, after 9 months of debate, the Constituent Assembly finished drafting a new constitution, which took effect immediately. Vinicio Cerezo, a civilian politician and the presidential candidate of the Christian Democracy Party, won the first election held under the new constitution with almost 70% of the vote, and took office on January 14, 1986.

1986 to 2007

Upon its inauguration in January 1986, President Cerezo's civilian government announced that its top priorities would be to end the political violence and establish the rule of law. Reforms included new laws of habeas corpus and amparo (court-ordered protection), the creation of a legislative human rights committee, and the establishment in 1987 of the Office of Human Rights Ombudsman. Cerezo survived coup attempts in 1988 and 1989, and the final 2 years of Cerezo's government were also marked by a failing economy, strikes, protest marches, and allegations of widespread corruption.

Presidential and congressional elections were held on November 11,1990. After a runoff ballot, Jorge Serrano was inaugurated on January 14,1991, thus completing the first transition from one democratically elected civilian government to another.

The Serrano administration's record was mixed. It had some success in consolidating civilian control over the army, replacing a number of senior officers and persuading the military to participate in peace talks with the URNG. Serrano took the politically unpopular step of recognizing the sovereignty of Belize. The Serrano government reversed the economic slide it inherited, reducing inflation and boosting real growth.

On May 25, 1993, Serrano illegally dissolved Congress and the Supreme Court and tried to restrict civil freedoms, allegedly to fight corruption. The “autogolpe” (or self-initiated coup) failed due to unified, strong protests by most elements of Guatemalan society, international pressure, and the army's enforcement of the decisions of the Court of Constitutionality, which ruled against the attempted takeover. Serrano fled the country.

On June 5, 1993, the Congress, pursuant to the 1985 constitution, elected the Human Rights Ombudsman, Ramiro De Leon Carpio, to complete Serrano's presidential term. De Leon, not a member of any political party and lacking a political base but with strong popular support, launched an ambitious anticorruption campaign to “purify” Congress and the Supreme Court, demanding the resignations of all members of the two bodies.

Despite considerable congressional resistance, presidential and popular pressure led to a November 1993 agreement brokered by the Catholic Church between the administration and Congress. This package of constitutional reforms was approved by popular referendum on January 30, 1994. In August 1994, a new Congress was elected to complete the unexpired term.

Under De Leon, the peace process, now brokered by the United Nations, took on new life. The government and the URNG signed agreements on human rights (March 1994), resettlement of displaced persons (June 1994), historical clarification (June 1994), and indigenous rights (March 1995). They also made significant progress on a socioeconomic and agrarian agreement. National elections for president, the Congress, and municipal offices were held in November 1995. With almost 20 parties competing in the first round, the presidential election came down to a January 7, 1996 runoff in which National Advancement Party (PAN) candidate Alvaro Arzu defeated Alfonso Portillo of the Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG) by just over 2% of the vote. Under the Arzu administration, peace negotiations were concluded, and the government signed peace accords ending the 36-year internal conflict in December 1996. The human rights situation also improved during Arzu's tenure, and steps were taken to reduce the influence of the military in national affairs.

In a December 1999 presidential runoff, Alfonso Portillo (FRG) won 68% of the vote to 32% for Oscar Berger (PAN). Portillo's impressive electoral triumph, with two-thirds of the vote in the second round, gave him a claim to a mandate from the people to carry out his reform program.

Oscar Berger of the Grand National Alliance (GANA) party won the November 9, 2003 presidential election, receiving 54.1% of the vote. His opponent, Alvarado Colom Caballeros of the National Unity for Hope (UNE) party, received 45.9% of the vote.

Alvaro Colom of the National Unity for Hope (UNE) party won the November 4, 2007 presidential election against retired General Otto Perez Molina with 52.8% of the vote versus 47.2%.

GOVERNMENT

Guatemala's 1985 constitution provides for a separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The 1993 constitutional reforms included an increase in the number of Supreme Court justices from 9 to 13. The reforms reduced the terms of office for president, vice president, and congressional representatives from 5 years to 4 years, and for Supreme Court justices from 6 years to 5 years; they increased the terms of mayors and city councils from 2-1/2 years to 4 years.

The president and vice president are directly elected through universal suffrage and limited to one term. A vice president can run for president after 4 years out of office. Supreme Court justices are elected by the Congress from a list submitted by the bar association, law school deans, a university rector, and appellate judges. The Supreme Court and local courts handle civil and criminal cases. There also is a separate Constitutional Court.

Guatemala has 22 administrative subdivisions (departments) administered by governors appointed by the president. Guatemala City and 331 other municipalities are governed by popularly elected mayors or councils.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

Pres.: Oscar BERGER Perdomo

Vice Pres.: Eduardo STEIN Barillas

Min. of Agriculture: Bernardo de Jesus LOPEZ Figueroa

Min. of Communication & Public Works: Francisco UNDA

Min. of Culture & Sports: Manuel SALAZAR Tezaguic

Min. of Defense: Ronaldo Cecilio LEIVA Rodriguez, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Economy: Luis Oscar ESTRADA

Min. of Education: Maria ACENA del Carmen

Min. of Energy & Mines: Carmen URIZAR

Min. of Environment & Natural Resources: Juan Mario DARY Fuentes

Min. of External Relations: Gert ROSENTHAL Koenigsberger

Min. of Finance: Mefi Eliud RODRIGUEZ Garcia

Min. of Government: Adela Camacho Sinibaldi de TORREBIARTE

Min. of Labor: Rodolfo COLMENARES Arandi

Min. of Public Health & Social Assistance: Alfredo PRIVADO

Attorney Gen.: Juan Luis FLORIDO

Solicitor Gen.: Luis Alfonso ROSALES

Sec. Gen. of the Presidency: Jorge Raul ARROYAVE Reyes

Pres., Bank of Guatemala: Maria Antonieta del Cid de BONILLA

Ambassador to the US: Guillermo CASTILLO

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Jorge SKINNER-KLEE Arenales

The Guatemalan embassy is located at 2220 R Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-745-4952; email: [email protected]). Consulates are in Washington, New York, Miami, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Denver, and Los Angeles, and honorary consuls in Montgomery, San Diego, Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta, Leavenworth, Lafayette, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Juan, Providence, Memphis, San Antonio, and Seattle.

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Congressional, municipal, and first-round presidential elections took place on September 9, 2007. The final round of presidential elections took place on November 4, 2007. Inauguration for the new president and the new Congress took place on January 14, 2008.

Common and violent crime, aggravated by a legacy of violence and vigilante justice, presents a serious challenge. Impunity remained a major problem, primarily because democratic institutions, including those responsible for the administration of justice, have developed only limited capacity to cope with this legacy. Guatemala's judiciary is independent; however, it suffers from inefficiency, corruption, and intimidation. In early December 2006, the government and the UN agreed to the creation of the joint International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). On August 1, 2007, the Guatemalan Congress approved the agreement, and on January 11, 2008, Guatemala and the United Nations inaugurated the work of CICIG. An earlier Guatemala-UN agreement was ruled unconstitutional in 2004 before it was acted upon by the Guatemalan Congress. The UN Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) ceased its 10-year project of monitoring peace accord implementation and human rights problems in November 2004 with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan declaring Guatemala had made “enormous progress in managing the country's problems through dialogue and institutions.”

ECONOMY

After the signing of the final peace accord in December 1996, Guatemala was well-positioned for rapid economic growth over the next several years, until a financial crisis in 1998 disrupted the course of improvement. The subsequent collapse of coffee prices left what was once the country's leading export sector in depression and had a severe impact on rural incomes. On a more positive note, Guatemala's macroeconomic management is sound and its foreign debt levels are modest. The Berger administration (2004-2007) made promotion of foreign investment and competitiveness a priority and implemented a series of reforms to improve transparency, combat corruption, and spur economic growth. As a result of the reforms and implementation of the U.S.Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows increased from $353 million in 2006 to $535 million in 2007.

Guatemala's economy is dominated by the private sector, which generates about 85% of GDP. Agriculture contributes 13.3% of GDP and accounts for 75% of exports. Most manufacturing is light assembly and food processing, geared to the domestic, U.S., and Central American markets. Over the past several years, tourism and exports of textiles, apparel, and nontraditional agricultural products such as winter vegetables, fruit, and cut flowers have boomed, while more traditional exports such as sugar, bananas, and coffee continue to represent a large share of the export market.

The United States is the country's largest trading partner, providing 34.5% of Guatemala's imports and receiving 46.2% of its exports. The government's involvement is small, with its business activities limited to public utilities—some of which have been privatized—ports and airports, and several development-oriented financial institutions.

Guatemala ratified the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement, commonly known as CAFTA, on March 10, 2005, and the agreement entered into force between Guatemala and the U.S. on July 1, 2006. CAFTA eliminates customs tariffs on as many categories of goods as possible; opens services sectors; and creates clear and readily enforceable rules in areas such as investment, government procurement, intellectual property protection, customs procedures, electronic commerce, the use of sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures to protect public health, and resolution of business disputes.

Other priorities include increasing transparency and accountability in Guatemala's public finances, broadening the tax base, and completing implementation of financial sector reforms. These measures attempt to ensure that Guatemala can comply with the standards of the international Financial Action Task Force for detecting and preventing money laundering.

The United States, along with other donor countries—especially France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Japan—and the international financial institutions, have increased development project financing since the signing of the peace accords. However, donor support remains contingent upon Guatemalan Government reforms and counterpart financing.

According to the World Bank, Guatemala has one of the most unequal income distributions in the hemisphere. The wealthiest 10% of the population receives almost one-half of all income; the top 20% receives two-thirds of all income. As a result, about 32% of the population lives on less than $2 a day and 13.5% on less than $1 a day. Guatemala's social development indicators, such as infant mortality and illiteracy, are among the worst in the hemisphere. Chronic malnutrition among the rural poor worsened with the onset of the crisis in coffee prices. The United States has provided disaster assistance and food aid in response to natural disasters including Hurricane Stan, which caused extensive mudslides in Guatemala in October 2005.

NATIONAL SECURITY

Guatemala is a signatory to the Rio Pact and is a member of the Conference of Central American Armed Forces (CFAC). Guatemala has deployed its troops to UN peacekeeping operations in Haiti and the Congo and has observers in several other locations. The president is commander in chief. The defense minister is responsible for policy. Day-to-day operations are the responsibility of the military chief of staff and the national defense staff.

An agreement signed in September 1996, which is one of the substantive peace accords, mandated that the mission of the armed forces change to focus exclusively on external threats. However, Presidents Berger, Portillo, and Arzu used a constitutional clause to order the army to temporarily support the police in response to a nationwide wave of violent crime.

The accord calls for a one-third reduction in the army's authorized strength and budget—achieved under President Berger—and for a constitutional amendment to permit the appointment of a civilian Minister of Defense. A constitutional amendment to this end was defeated as part of a May 1999 plebiscite, but discussions on how to achieve this objective continue between the executive and legislative branches. The army has gone beyond its accord-mandated target of reducing its strength to 28,000 troops, and numbered 15,500 troops as of June 2004. Not only was this the most profound transformation of any Central American military in the last 50 years, it also illustrates the effective control the civilian government has over the military. President Berger tasked the Defense Ministry with increasing the professional skills of all soldiers. As part of the army downsizing, the operational structure of 19 military zones and three strategic brigades were recast as several military zones are eliminated and their area of operations absorbed by others. The air force operates three air bases; the navy has two port bases. Additionally, recent steps have been taken to redefine the military's mission—the military doctrine has been rewritten, and there has been an increase in cooperation with civil society to help bring about this reform.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Guatemala's major diplomatic interests are regional security and, increasingly, regional development and economic integration. Guatemala participates in several regional groups, particularly those related to trade and the environment.

The Council of Central American Ministers of Trade meets on a regular basis to work on regional approaches to trade issues. The council signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the U.S. in 1998, and was part of the negotiations that led to the creation of CAFTA. Guatemala joined Honduras and El Salvador in signing a free trade agreement with Mexico in 2000, which went into effect the following year. Guatemala also originated the idea for, and is the seat of, the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN). The U.S and Central American countries signed the CON-CAUSA (Conjunto Centroamerica-USA) agreement at the Summit of the Americas in December 1994. CONCAUSA is a cooperative plan of action to promote clean, efficient energy use; conserve the region's biodiversity; strengthen legal and institutional frameworks and compliance mechanisms; and improve and harmonize environmental protection standards.

Guatemala has a long-standing claim to a large portion of Belize; the territorial dispute caused problems with the United Kingdom and later with Belize following its 1981 independence from the U.K. In December 1989, Guatemala sponsored Belize for permanent observer status in the Organization of American States (OAS). In September 1991, Guatemala recognized Belize's independence and established diplomatic ties, while acknowledging that the boundaries remained in dispute. In anticipation of an effort to bring the border dispute to an end in early 1996, the Guatemalan Congress ratified two long-pending international agreements governing frontier issues and maritime rights.

In 2001, Guatemala and Belize agreed to a facilitation process led by the OAS to determine the land and maritime borders separating the two countries. National elections in Guatemala put a temporary halt to progress, but discussions resumed in November 2005. After being named Foreign Minister in early August 2006, Gert Rosenthal reinvigorated discussions with Belize.

U.S.-GUATEMALAN RELATIONS

Relations between the United States and Guatemala traditionally have been close, although at times strained by human rights and civil/military issues. U.S. policy objectives in Guatemala include:

  • Supporting the institutionalization of democracy and implementation of the peace accords;
  • Encouraging respect for human rights and the rule of law, and implementation of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG);
  • Supporting broad-based economic growth and sustainable development and maintaining mutually beneficial trade and commercial relations, including ensuring that benefits of CAFTA-DR reach all sectors of the Guatemalan populace;
  • Cooperating to combat money laundering, corruption, narcotics trafficking, alien-smuggling, and other transnational crime; and
  • Supporting Central American integration through support for resolution of border/territorial disputes.

The United States, as a member of “the Friends of Guatemala,” along with Colombia, Mexico, Spain, Norway, and Venezuela, played an important role in the UN-moderated peace accords, providing public and behind-the-scenes support. The U.S. strongly supports the six substantive and three procedural accords, which, along with the signing of the December 29, 1996 final accord, form the blueprint for profound political, economic, and social change. To that end, the U.S. Government has committed over $500 million to support peace implementation since 1997.

Violent criminal activity continues to be a problem in Guatemala, including murder, rape, and armed assaults against persons of all nationalities. In recent years the number of violent crimes reported by U.S. citizens has steadily increased, though the number of Americans traveling to Guatemala has also increased. Most U.S. assistance to Guatemala is provided through the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) offices for Guatemala. USAID/Guatemala's current program builds on the gains of the peace process that followed the signing of the peace accords in December 1996, as well as on the achievements of its 1997-2004 peace program. The current program works to advance U.S. foreign policy objectives by focusing on Guatemala's potential as Central America's largest economy and trading partner of the United States, but also recognizes the country's lagging social indicators and high rate of poverty. The three areas of focus for USAID/Guate-mala's program are modeled after the Millennium Challenge Account areas—ruling justly, economic freedom, and investing in people, and are as follows:

More responsive, transparent governance, through:

  • Strengthened justice; and
  • Greater transparency and accountability of governments.

Open, diversified and expanding economies, through:

  • Laws, policies, and regulations that promote trade and investment;
  • More competitive, market-oriented private enterprises; and
  • Broader access to financial markets and services.

Healthier, better educated people, through:

  • Increased and improved quality of social sector (health and education) investments; and
  • Increased use of quality maternal-child and reproductive health services, particularly in rural areas.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

GUATEMALA (E) Ave. Reforma 7-01, Zona 10, APO/FPO APO AA 34024, (502) 2326-4000, Fax (502) 2326-4658, INMARSAT Tel 683133345, Workweek: Mon-Thu: 7:30 to 5:00 p.m.; Fri: 7:30 to 12:30, Website: http://guatemala.usembassy.gov.

DCM OMS:Dionne Simms
AMB OMS:Elizabeth Selva
DHS/CIS:Joe Roma
DHS/ICE:Eric Sallick
FCS:Patricia Wagner
FM:Daniel Murray
MGT:Leo Hession, Jr.. (Arrives 7/10/07)
POL ECO:Drew Blakeney
AMB:James M. Derham
CG:John Lowell
DCM:David Lindwall
PAO:David Young
GSO:Patty Baide
RSO:John Eustace
AGR:Robert Hoff
AID:Wayne NilsEST:uen
APHIS:Gary Greene
CLO:Maria Eustace
DAO:Col. Humberto Rodriguez
DEA:Michael O'Brien
EEO:Jennifer Davis-Paguada
FMO:Victor Carbonell
ICASS:Chair William Elderbaum
IMO:Frank Alonso
IPO:Rodney Rodriguez
ISO:Ray Harger
LAB:Lucy Chang
MLO COL:Linda Gould
NAS:Brian Alistair Cooke
State ICASS:John Lowell

Other Contact Information

U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade
Administration
Trade Information Center

14th and Constitution, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 800-USA-TRADE
Internet: http://trade.gov.

American Chamber of Commerce in Guatemala
5a avenida 5-55 zona 14 Europlaza,
Torre I Nivel 5
01014 Guatemala City, Guatemala
Tel: (502) 2333-3899
Fax: (502) 2368-3536
E-Mail: [email protected]

Caribbean/Latin American Action (C/LAA)
1818 N Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel.: 202-466-7464

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

October 12, 2007

Country Description: Guatemala has a developing economy, characterized by wide income disparities. Hotels and other tourist facilities in the principal tourist sites most frequented by visitors from the United States are generally good to excellent. A peace accord, signed in 1996, ended a 36-year armed conflict. Violent crime, however, is a serious concern due to endemic poverty, an abundance of weapons, a legacy of societal violence, and dysfunctional law enforcement and judicial systems.

Entry Requirements: A valid U.S. passport is required for all U.S. citizens, regardless of age, to enter Guatemala and to depart Guatemala for return to the U.S. Even if dual nationals are permitted to enter Guatemala on a second nationality passport, U.S. citizens returning to the United States from Guatemala are not allowed to board their flights without a valid U.S. passport. Certificates of Naturalization, birth certificates, driver's licenses, and photocopies are not accepted by Guatemalan authorities as alternative travel documents. While in Guatemala, U.S. citizens should carry their passports, or a photocopy of their passports, with them at all times.

An exit tax must be paid when departing Guatemala by air. The exit tax (currently $30) is generally included in an airline ticket price, but may be charged separately. There is an additional airport security fee (20 Quetzales, approximately $2.50) that all travelers must pay at the airport.

Minors under 18 traveling with a valid U.S. passport need no special permission from their parents to enter or leave Guatemala. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for a stay of 90 days or less (that period can be extended for an additional 180 days upon application to Guatemalan immigration). A U.S. citizen whose passport is lost or stolen in Guatemala must obtain a new passport at the U.S. Embassy as soon as possible and present it, together with a police report of the loss or theft, to the Dirección de Migración (Guatemalan immigration agency), Sub-director de Control Migratorio (Sub-director for Migratory Control), to obtain permission to depart Guatemala. The agency is located in Guatemala City at 6 Avenida 3-11, Zone 4, Guatemala City. Office hours are weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; telephone 2411-2411. No fee is charged by Guatemalan immigration for this service.

In June 2006, Guatemala entered a “Central America-4 (CA-4) Border Control Agreement” with El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Under the terms of the agreement, citizens of the four countries may travel freely across land borders from one of the countries to any of the others without completing entry and exit formalities at Immigration checkpoints. U.S. citizens and other eligible foreign nationals, who legally enter any of the four countries, may similarly travel among the four without obtaining additional visas or tourist entry permits for the other three countries. Immigration officials at the first port of entry determine the length of stay, up to a maximum period of 90 days. Foreign tourists who wish to remain in the region beyond the period initially granted for their visit are required to request a one-time extension of stay from local Immigration authorities in the country where the traveler is physically present, or travel outside the CA-4 countries and reapply for admission to the region. Foreigners “expelled” from any of the four countries are excluded from the entire “CA-4” region. In isolated cases, the lack of clarity in the implementing details of the CA-4 Border Control Agreement has caused temporary inconvenience to travelers.

For further information regarding entry, exit and customs requirements, travelers should contact the Guatemalan Embassy at 2220 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20008; telephone (202) 745-4952, extension 102; fax (202) 745-1908; email at [email protected] or contact the nearest Guatemalan consulate (Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, or San Francisco).

Safety and Security: Violent criminal activity continues to be a problem in Guatemala, including murder, rape, and armed assaults against foreigners. The police force is inexperienced and under-funded, and the judicial system is weak, overworked, and inefficient. Well-armed criminals know there is little chance they will be caught or punished. Traditionally, Guatemala experiences increases in crime before and during the Christmas and Easter holiday seasons.

Large demonstrations occur throughout Guatemala, often with little or no notice, and can cause serious traffic disruptions. Although most demonstrations are peaceful, they can turn violent, and travelers should avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place. The use of roadblocks and/ or blocking of public facilities, including the international airport, has increased and demonstrators may prevent tourists caught behind the blockades from leaving. In 2007 particularly virulent rumors of child stealing and of murder for organ harvesting have been reported in several different areas of Guatemala frequented by American tourists. This year numerous Guatemalan citizens have been lynched for suspicion of child stealing, and three local women who allegedly facilitated foreign adoptions were attacked by a mob that accused them of kidnapping and killing a girl whose mutilated remains were found near Camotan, Chiquimula (near the Honduran border on the main road leading to the Copan Mayan ruins). In reaction to unconfirmed reports of babies being kidnapped in the El Golfete area of the Rio Dulce (near Livingston, Iza-bal), residents of small villages in the area remain mobilized and suspicious of all outsiders, including foreigners.

Also in 2007, two foreigners (including an American citizen) and a Guatemalan kayaking on a river near Chicaman, Quiche were accused of stealing children and seized by a mob estimated at 500 persons. Although threatened, the individuals were not physically attacked. The incident occurred after the group talked and joked with a local boy on the river bank. In Sayaxche, Petén, child stealing rumors escalated into mob action against a Guatemalan couple believed to be involved in child stealing. The husband was beaten and burned to death, and the wife threatened, but eventually turned over to the police. A local American resident was also seized and threatened with death when he tried to intervene with the mob. A family of American tourists, along with several Guatemalan motorists, was held overnight at a road blockade in the same area for possible use as human shields. Mobs have also targeted police, resulting in delayed or ineffective responses by law enforcement.

Due to uncontrolled drug and alien smuggling, the Guatemalan border with Mexico is a relatively high-risk area, in particular in the northern Peten Department. The most dangerous area in that region is on the northwestern border in the area that includes the Sierra de Lacandon and Laguna del Tigre National Parks. Extra precautions are required when U.S. Government personnel travel to the region.

The following recommendations will help residents and visitors alike to increase their safety:

  • Avoid gatherings of agitated people. Frustration over crime and a lack of appropriate judicial remedies has led to violent incidents of vigilantism, including lynchings, especially in more isolated, rural areas. Attempting to intervene may put you at risk of attacks from mobs.
  • Avoid close contact with children, including taking photographs, especially in rural areas. Such contact can be viewed with deep alarm and may provoke panic and violence.
  • Keep informed of possible demonstrations by following the local news and consulting hotel personnel and tour guides. Avoid areas where demonstrations are occurring.
  • Beware of strong currents, riptides, and undertow along Guatemala's Pacific Coast beaches. They pose a serious threat to even the strongest swimmers. Signs warning of treacherous surf are rare and confined mostly to private beaches owned by hotels. Lifeguards are rarely present on beaches.

Tourists planning to climb Pacaya and Agua volcanoes during Guatemala's rainy season (May through October) should plan their climb for the morning hours, when it is less likely that thunderstorms will occur. Climbers should monitor the weather situation and return to the base of the volcano as quickly as safely possible if thunderstorms gather. In 2003, a Canadian tourist was killed by lightning while climbing Pacaya. INGUAT, the Guatemalan Tourist Institute, has organized an active community-based tourism program in San Vicente Pacaya to minimize the risk of armed robbery on Pacaya. Climbing in groups is still highly advisable for any volcano climb to reduce the risk of assault.

Security escorts for tourist groups and security information are available from the Tourist Assistance Office of INGUAT (the Guatemalan Tourist Institute) at 7a Avenida 1-17, Zona 4 Centro Civico, Ciudad de Guatemala. INGUAT's ASISTUR division has 24 hour/seven days per week direct telephone numbers for tourist assistance and emergencies, which are (502) 2421-2810 and (502) 5578-9836 and the fax is (502) 2421-2891. ASISTUR also maintains regional offices in all major tourist destinations in Guatemala, and the regional delegates provide rapid and appropriate assistance to crime and accident victims. INGUAT may be reached by its toll free number within the United States at 1-888-464-8281. You may also simply dial 1500 in Guatemala to reach INGUAT Tourist Assistance. The e-mail address is [email protected] inguat.gob.gt. Travelers may also wish to visit INGUAT's web site at http://visitguatemala.com. Tourist groups are advised to request security escorts from INGUAT, Attention: Coordinator of the National Tourist Assistance Program. There have been no incidents of armed robbery of groups escorted through the Tourist Protection Program. The request should be submitted by mail, fax or email and should arrive at INGUAT at least three business days in advance of the proposed travel, giving the itinerary, names of travelers, and model and color of vehicle in which they will be traveling. Travelers should be aware that INGUAT might not be able to accommodate all requests.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affair's Internet site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: The number of violent crimes reported by U.S. citizens and other foreigners has remained high in recent years. Incidents include, but are not limited to, assault, theft, armed robbery, carjacking, rape, kidnapping, and murder. Criminals often operate in groups of four or more and are confrontational and violent. Gangs are a growing concern in Guatemala City and rural Guatemala. Gang members are often well armed with sophisticated weaponry and they sometimes use massive amounts of force. Emboldened armed robbers have attacked vehicles on main roads in broad daylight. Travel on rural roads always increases the risk of a criminal roadblock or ambush. Widespread narcotics and alien smuggling activities can make remote areas especially dangerous. Though there is no evidence that Americans are particularly targeted, criminals look for every opportunity to attack, so all travelers should remain constantly vigilant.

Most tourists and visitors travel throughout Guatemala without mishap. However, violent criminal activity on the highways continues, and tourists, among others, have been targeted. Many of the robbery attempts have occurred in daylight hours on main highways. Carjacking incidents and highway robberies are often violent. Four Americans were killed in highway robbery attempts in 2002 and three killed and one wounded in 2003. In 2004 one American tourist was murdered, and women and children were raped in highway assaults. Several highway assaults of American citizens also took place in 2005, but without serious injury to the victims. In 2006, there were 19 incidents of assault against Americans in motor vehicles reported to the Embassy, none of which involved death or injury. In nine of these incidents, the victims were arriving at Guatemala City's airport.

In 2007 there has been an increasing number of carjacking incidents and armed robberies of travelers who have just arrived on international flights, most frequently between 6:00 a.m and 10:00 am, but also in the evening. In the most common scenario tourists or business travelers who land at the airport around 7:00 am are held up by armed men as their vehicle departs the airport. Private vehicles, taxis and shuttle buses have been attacked. Typically, the assailants steal money, passports, and luggage, and in some but not all cases, the assailants steal the vehicle as well. Recently, many of these attacks have taken place far from the airport, just as travelers arrived at their homes, or in less busy areas of the city. Laptops are frequently targeted, so carry them inconspicuously in a backpack or other carryon luggage. Victims who did not resist the attackers were not physically injured. The Embassy advises its own employees to seek alternative routes for exiting the airport.

In some cases, assailants have been wearing full or partial police uniforms and have used vehicles that resemble police vehicles, indicating that some elements of the police might be involved. Armed robberies have occurred within minutes of the tourist's vehicle being stopped by the police. U.S. Embassy personnel continue to observe heightened security precautions in Guatemala City and on the roads outside the capital city. U.S. tourists are urged to be especially aware of safety and security concerns when traveling on the roads in Guatemala. Rather than traveling alone, use a reputable tour organization. Stay in groups; travel in a caravan consisting of two or more vehicles; and, stay on the main roads. Ensure that someone not traveling with you is aware of your itinerary. Resist the temptation to stay in hotels that do not have adequate security. Travel after dark anywhere in Guatemala is extremely dangerous. It is preferable to stay in the main tourist destinations. Do not explore back roads or isolated paths near tourist sites. Pay close attention to your surroundings, especially when walking or when driving in Guatemala City. Refrain from displaying expensive-looking jewelry, large amounts of money, laptop computers, or other valuable items. Finally, if confronted by criminals, be aware that resistance may provoke a more violent response.

Avoid low-priced intra-and inter-city buses (recycled U.S. school buses); they are often attacked by armed robbers and are poorly maintained and dangerously driven. More than 100 bus drivers and passengers died in 2006 in robberies staged by holdup gangs that target public transportation, both urban and inter-city. The use of modern inter-city buses some-what improves security and safety. There have been, however, several attacks on travelers on first-class buses on highway CA-2 near the border areas with both Mexico and El Salvador and on highways CA-1 and CA-9 near the El Salvador border and in the highlands between Quetzalt-enango and Sololá. Be cautious with personal items such as backpacks, fanny packs, and passports while riding buses, because tourists’ possessions are a favorite target of thieves.

Foreign residents of Guatemala have special concerns. Since December 1999, when the Government of Guatemala appointed a Special Prosecutor to investigate all American citizen murders, twenty-four American citizen residents and six American citizen tourists have been murdered, and suspects have been convicted in only two cases. There have been “express” kidnappings in recent years, primarily in Guatemala City, in which a relatively small ransom that can be quickly gathered is demanded. U.S. citizens have been kidnapped in recent years. At least one incident of a random kidnapping, in which the victim was grabbed off the street in an affluent neighborhood of the city, occurred in December 2003 and resulted in a physical and sexual assault.

Pickpockets and purse-snatchers are active in all major cities and tourist sites, especially the central market and other parts of Zone 1 in Guatemala City and the city of Antigua. In a common scenario, an accomplice distracts the victim, while an assailant slashes or simply steals a bag or backpack while the victim's attention is diverted.

As in other countries, criminals also use a number of scams to steal money and possessions from tourists in Guatemala. In one popular scam, robbers place a nail in a parked vehicle's tire. The vehicle is then followed by the robbers who pose as “good Samaritans” when the tire becomes flat and the victims pull to the side of the road. While “help” is being rendered, the contents of the car are stolen, often without the knowledge of the victims. However, in some cases, the robbers have threatened the tourists with weapons. Parking areas in and around the Guatemala City International Airport are particularly prone to this crime. In another scam, victims are approached in a hotel, restaurant or other public place by an individual claiming there is some sort of problem with his or the would-be victim's automobile in the parking lot. On the way to investigate the “problem,” usually in a remote or concealed area near the parking lot, the robber pulls a gun on the victim demanding cash, credit cards and other valuables. A third popular scam involves various attempts to acquire a victim's ATM card and PIN number. Some sophisticated criminals have even placed boxes outside ATM kiosks that record PIN numbers when unsuspecting victims believe they must enter their PIN number to gain entry to the ATM foyer. After recording PIN numbers, robbers then steal the owner's ATM card to complete their crime. There are dozens of techniques scammers can use to rob victims of money and possessions. While most people mean no harm, always be cautious when strangers approach you for any reason or make unusual requests.

Parents adopting children in Guatemala have also been victimized in public places and at their hotels by police (or individuals dressed as police) who have threatened to arrest foster mothers and turn adoptive children over to orphanages, but released them in exchange for significant payments, often approaching $1000. Such threats have no basis in Guatemalan law, and should be immediately reported to the Embassy.

For security reasons, the Embassy does not allow U.S. government employees to stay in hotels in Zone 1 in Guatemala City and urges private travelers to avoid staying in this area Do not hail taxis on the street in Guatemala City. Use radio-dispatched taxis or taxis from major hotels instead.

The main road to Lake Atitlan via the Inter-American Highway (CA-1) and Solola is safer than the alternatives, though attacks in recent years have made traveling in a caravan highly recommended, even on the Inter-American Highway. Robbery and assault have been frequently reported on secondary roads near the lake with the highest number of incidents occurring on the RN-11 (Las Trampas road) parallel to the east side of the lake. Robbers have used mountain roads advantageously to stop buses, vans and cars in a variety of ways.

Armed attacks have occurred on roads from Guatemala City to the Peten. Visitors to the Mayan ruins at Tikal are urged to fly to nearby Flores and then travel by bus or tour van to the site. Violent attacks have occurred in the Mayan ruins in the Peten, including in the Cerro Cahui Conservation Park, Yaxha, the road to and inside Tikal Park, and in the Tikal ruins. Tourist police (POLI-TUR) patrols inside the park have significantly reduced the violent crime incidents inside the park, but travelers should nevertheless remain in groups and on the principal trails leading to the Central Plaza and the Temple IV complex, and avoid remote areas of the park.

POLITUR (a joint police/Guatemalan Tourism Institute initiative) is present in all major tourist destinations. They should be contacted in case of any criminal incident in such areas, even if minor.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: A full range of medical care is available in Guatemala City, but medical care outside the city is limited. Guatemala's public hospitals frequently experience serious short-ages of basic medicines and equipment. Care in private hospitals is generally adequate for most common illnesses and injuries, and many of the medical specialists working in them are U.S. trained and certified.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Guatemala is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. Driving in Guatemala requires one's full attention, and safe drivers must take extraordinary efforts to drive defensively to avoid dangerous situations.

Traffic rules are only casually observed. Many drivers do not use their turn signals to alert other drivers. Instead, a common custom is for a driver or passenger to stick a hand out the window and wave it to indicate that they will be taking an unspecified action. Speed limits, lane markings and stop signs are frequently ignored. Passing blindly on winding and/or steep mountain roads, poorly designed surfaces, and unmarked hazards, including frequent landslides and precarious temporary highway repairs, present additional risks to motorists.

Common public transportation is by local recycled school busses, which serve every town in the country. Criminal activity and frequent fatal accidents, however, make the low-priced inter-city buses particularly dangerous. Modern inter-city buses offer some security from highway violence, but armed attacks are increasing, showing that all buses are vulnerable.

Although city streets are lit, secondary and rural roads have little to no illumination. Driving outside of urban areas at night is dangerous and not recommended. The Inter-American Highway (CA-1) and the road from Guatemala City to the Caribbean coast (CA-9) are especially dangerous due to heavy traffic, including large trucks and trailers. There are no roadside assistance clubs, however a roadside assistance force (PROVIAL) patrols most of the major highways in the country. PROVIAL can be contacted by calling 2422-7878. Their vehicles are equipped with basic tools and first aid supplies, and their services are free. Police patrol the major roadways and may assist travelers, but the patrols are sporadic and may be suspended due to budget restraints. For roadside assistance, travelers may call the police by dialing 120 or the fire department by dialing 122 or 123. Cellular telephone service covers most areas frequented by tourists.

Valid U.S. driver's licenses are accepted for the first 30 days of a visit, and international driving permits are accepted in Guatemala for extended stays. Guatemala's road safety authorities are the Department of Transit and the Joint Operations Center of the National Police. Drivers use the right-hand side of the road in Guatemala, and speed limits are posted (in kilometers) depending on the condition of the road. Speed limits are different in rural and urban areas, but are rarely enforced. Drivers often drive at the absolute maximum speed possible for the particular vehicle at the time. These drivers share the road with slow vehicles, some barely able to manage 20 miles per hour, creating a hazardous mix of velocities. Turning right on red is not permitted unless otherwise posted, and drivers must yield when entering a traffic circle. Seat belts must be worn in Guatemala, but there are no laws regarding the use of child safety seats. It is against the law for drivers to operate cellular phones while driving.

People found driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs are arrested and may serve jail time. In an accident resulting in injury or death, every driver involved is taken into custody and the vehicle(s) impounded until a judge determines responsibility in a re-enactment of the accident.

Visit the web site of Guatemala's national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.inguat.gob.gt or via e-mail at [email protected] or [email protected]

Aviation Safety Oversight: TheU.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Guatemala's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of Guatemala's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: A major renovation of the international terminal at La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City is currently under way. Until completion in late 2007 or early 2008, there is a temporary reconfiguration of arrival and departure vehicle traffic and major construction works inside the terminal.

Guatemalan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Guatemala of items such as antiquities and other cultural property. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Guatemala in Washington or one of Guatemala's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/ or fines. Non-Guatemalan citizens who wish to marry in Guatemala are required to provide proof of identity and civil status (indicating whether they are single or divorced). Prior notice of the marriage must be given in the Diario de Centro America (Guatemala's Official Record) and any large circulation daily newspaper for fifteen days. The marriage must take place within six months of the publication of the notice.

Disaster Preparedness: Guatemala is a geologically active country. Visitors should be aware of the possibility of earthquakes at any time and the need for contingency plans. There are also four active volcanoes. Volcanic activity, such as that of Fuego Volcano near Antigua in January 2003, and again in January 2006, has on occasion forced evacuations of nearby villages; the January-February 2000 activity of Pacaya Volcano near Guatemala City also briefly closed Guatemala City's international airport. Both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Guatemala are also vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms from June through November. Mudslides and flooding during the May to November rainy season often kill dozens of people and close roads. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating Guatemalan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Guatemala are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.

Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration and Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in Guatemala are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Guatemala. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

The latest security information is available from the Embassy, including its web site, http://guatemala.usembassy.gov. The Consular Section is open for citizen services, including registration, from 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon and 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursdays and 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Fridays, excluding U.S. and Guatemalan holidays. The second and last Friday of each month are reserved for administrative matters; therefore, routine citizen services are not provided. Emergency services are available at all times. The U.S. Embassy is located in Guatemala City at Avenida La Reforma 7-01, Zone 10; telephone (502) 2-326-4000 during Embassy business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), or (502) 2-331-2354 for emergencies during non-business hours; fax (502) 2-332-4353; Internet web site: http://guatemala.usembassy.gov.

International Adoption

September 2007

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding.

Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Alert: The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala has occasionally received reports of Guatemalan police in and around some of the major hotels in Guatemala City attempting to extort money from adopting parents by threatening to take the biological or foster mother and the prospective or adopted child into custody. We know of no legal basis under local Guatemalan law for such actions and encourage all U.S. citizens who encounter similar experiences to report them immediately to their local lawyer and the American Citizens Services section at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City. Please read the Guatemala Country Specific Information at: http://travel.state.gov/ for updated information about security and other local conditions.

Please Note: The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala schedules specific immigrant visa appointment dates and times for all adoption cases and issues “Pink Slips” that contain this information. Prospective adoptive parents are urged not to travel to Guatemala until the “Pink Slip” has been issued.

Patterns of Immigration: Please review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Adoption Authority: The Social Services Agency Bienestar Social has been named Hague Convention Central Authority for Guatemala. The Guatemalan Solicitor General's Office (Procuradoría General de la Nación, PGN) is also an adoption authority in Guatemala. Adoptions must be finalized through the PGN.

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: Under Guatemalan law, prospective adoptive parents may be married or single and must be at least 18 years old. There are no requirements for an age-difference between the prospective adoptive parent and the child. There are also no disqualifying medical ineligibilities.

Residency Requirements: The Government of Guatemala has no residency requirements for prospective adoptive parents.

Time Frame: Based on the results of a survey conducted by the U.S. Embassy in 2005 of prospective adoptive parents, an adoption of a Guatemalan child takes on average 9 and a half months from start to finish. Since the introduction of the requirement for a second DNA test in August, 2007, up to two weeks of additional processing time should be expected.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: Since 1977, adoptions are handled as an administrative matter and attorneys and notaries participate in all aspects of the adoption process within Guatemala. The U.S. based adoption agency serves as the adoptive family's agent, and the Guatemalan attorney serves as an agent for the adoptive family's agency. Therefore, prospective adoptive parents should be kept informed of all aspects of the identification, care, and adoption process of their prospective adoptive children by the U.S. based adoption agency or agent. If prospective adoptive parents have hired an agency in the United States to assist in the adoption, the agency is responsible for keeping them informed about their case. Prospective adoptive parents should ask their agency for the name(s) of their attorney(s) and whether anyone in the attorney's office speaks English, etc. The United States Government is not in a position to inquire on individual adoption cases from the Guatemalan authorities.

Some families have worked directly with an attorney in Guatemala instead of an intermediary agency in the United States. Unfortunately, some parents have experienced problems working directly with Guatemalan attorneys, and prospective adoptive parents are encouraged to research their options before selecting an attorney. The best method of finding a competent attorney is to obtain referrals from families who have had satisfactory experiences working with a specific attorney. The U.S. Government cannot assume responsibility for the professional ability or personal integrity of Guatemalan attorneys.

Adoption Fees: The Solicitor General's office (PGN) does not charge any fees for adoptions. Based on the results of a survey of prospective adoptive parents conducted by the U.S. Embassy in 2005, families should expect to pay an average of $27,000 (in a range from $17,300 to $45,000) to adopt a Guatemalan child. According to Guatemalan press reports, some Guatemalan lawyers charge up to $35,000 for each adoption. One lawyer quoted in the local press said that he earns between $15,000 and $20,000 per adoption.

Adoption Procedures: (The following applies to adoption procedures before the Hague Adoption Convention comes into force in Guatemala on January 1, 2008): Intercountry adoptions in Guatemala are currently processed under a “notarial” system. Please see the Warning above about processing intercountry adoptions in Guatemala at this time. In many cases, Guatemalan attorneys personally take physical custody of and propose potential orphans to U.S. adoption service providers, who in turn offer the child or children to their American client prospective adoptive parents. If the prospective adoptive parents accept the referral they receive from their U.S. agency, the prospective adoptive parents must provide the attorney with a “power of attorney” to act on their behalf to complete the adoption.

In most cases the same attorney represents the birth parent(s), the adopting parent(s) and the child(ren) in the Guatemalan government proceedings. When viewed in comparison to normal U.S. legal procedures, this is a conflict of interest, and prospective adoptive parents should take that into consideration when initiating a Guatemalan adoption.

Prospective adoptive parents must receive receipt of “pre-approval” from the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS/USCIS) office in Guatemala before their attorney can submit their dossier to the Guatemalan authorities. After obtaining clearance from a social worker under the supervision of a family court to proceed with a potential adoption case, the attorney submits the case to the Guatemalan Solicitor General's Office (Procuradoría General de la Nación, PGN) for review.

The PGN reviews the adoption case for signs of fraud or irregularities before providing its approval for the adoption to proceed. Once the PGN approves the case, the Guatemalan attorney (the notary) authorizes the adoption deed and registers it at the Civil Registrar where the child's birth was registered. The Guatemalan birth mother needs to provide final approval for the adoption at the time of the adoption deed. Upon registration of the adoption deed with the Civil Registrar, the adoptive parents in the U.S. are legally responsible for their child(ren). Finally, the Guatemalan attorney requests a second birth certificate listing the new adoptive parents as the legal parents of the child based upon the final adoption. Following issuance of the new birth certificate and submission of other documents, the attorney then requests and receives, normally on the same day, the child's Guatemalan passport. With these final documents, the attorney submits the complete case file, including the 1-600 orphan visa petition, to DHS/USCIS in Guatemala.

Required Documents: The Government of Guatemala reviews adoptions on a case-by case basis and will provide information on necessary documents to the U.S. based adoption agency and/or attorney. The Department of State is not in a position to provide a definitive list of requirements at this time.

Embassy of Guatemala:
2220 R Street, N.W.
Washington, DC. 20008
Tel (202) 745-4952
Fax (202) 745-1908
[email protected]

Guatemala also has consulates in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco.

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adopting parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

DHS/USCIS Review Of Birth Mother Information And DNA Testing: Problems occur when U.S. citizens are encouraged to adopt children who do not meet the U.S. immigration definition of “orphan.” In some cases, these children may have been obtained by illegal means, perhaps even stolen. The DHS/USCIS office at the U.S. Embassy requires DNA testing in all cases where an identifiable birth mother is alleged to have released the child, because the use of a false birth mother to release “her child” is one method used to circumvent proper relinquishment procedures. Occasionally DHS/USCIS must also interview and investigate the birth mother. DNA tests must be performed by one of the laboratories in the United States approved by DHS. The Embassy contracts with Guatemalan doctors, referred to as panel physicians, to take the samples necessary for the test. Fees for the DNA analysis differ among the laboratories, but range from approximately $400 to $600. Results are generally available within two weeks. After receiving the results, it can take up to 6 weeks for DHS/USCIS to approve the case. The fee for taking the DNA samples is approximately $140, which includes packaging of the samples and courier shipment to the laboratory in the United States.

Effective August 6, 2007, the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala requires a second DNA test, to verify that the adopted child for whom an immigrant visa is being requested is the same child matched at the beginning of the adoption process with the birth parent.

The Embassy is taking this step in response to concerns about the unregulated adoption process in that country. The Embassy already requires one DNA match between a relinquishing parent and prospective adoptive child as part of the immigrant visa process for Guatemalan children adopted by American citizens. This new procedure applies to adoption cases finalized by Guatemalan authorities and submitted to the Embassy on or after August 6, 2007. If the result of the DNA examination results in a negative match, the case will be terminated immediately.

Before Traveling To Guatemala: Before adoptive parents make airline reservations for themselves or for an escort and the child, they should confirm with their Guatemalan attorney or U.S. adoption agency that the consular section has issued the appointment letter (“Pink Slip”) with a specific immigrant visa interview appointment date and time. They should also confirm that:

  • If the paperwork was filed in the United States, that the Consular section has received a notice of approval of the 1-600 petition, and the adoptive parent has all required documents for the interview, including the child's Guatemalan passport and has or can obtain prior to the appointment date the medical exam results.
  • If the 1-600 will be filed in Guatemala, that the Consular section has received a notice of approval of the I-600A application, and that the DHS/USCIS office has approved the adoption documents and cleared the adoptive family for the appointment (after review of the Guatemalan adoption paperwork). Prospective adoptive parents should review the list of required documents to ensure that they are available for the visa interview, including the child's Guatemalan passport and has or can obtain prior to the appointment date the medical exam results.

U.S. Embassy
Avenida Reforma 7-01, Zona 10
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Email: [email protected]
Fax at: 011-502-2326-4674
Website:
http://guatemala.usembassy.gov

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in Guatemala may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala. General questions regarding intercountry adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

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Guatemala

GUATEMALA

Compiled from the November 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Guatemala


PROFILE

Geography

Area:

108,890 sq. km. (42,042 sq. mi.); about the size of Tennessee.

Cities:

Capital—Guatemala City (metro area pop. 2.5 million). Other major cities—Quetzaltenango, Escuintla.

Terrain:

Mountainous, with fertile coastal plain.

Climate:

Temperate in highlands; tropical on coasts.

People

Nationality:

Noun and adjective—Guatemalan(s).

Population (2005 est.):

12.7 million.

Annual population growth rate (2005 est.):

2.5%.

Ethnic groups:

Mestizo (mixed Spanish-Indian), indigenous.

Religion:

Roman Catholic, Protestant, traditional Mayan.

Language:

Spanish, 24 indigenous languages (principally Kiche, Kaqchikel, Q'eqchi, and Mam).

Education:

Years compulsory—6. Attendance—41%. Literacy—70.6%.

Health:

Infant mortality rate—36.9/1,000. Life expectancy—65.19 yrs.

Work force salaried breakdown:

Services—40%; industry and commerce—37%; agriculture—15%; construction, mining, utilities—4%. Fifty percent of the population engages in some form of agriculture, often at the subsistence level outside the monetized economy.

Government

Type:

Constitutional democratic republic.

Constitution:

May 1985; amended November 1993.

Independence:

September 15, 1821.

Branches:

Executive—president (4-year term). Legislative—unicameral 158-member Congress (4-year term). Judicial—13-member Supreme Court of Justice (5-year term).

Subdivisions:

22 departments (appointed governors); 331 municipalities with elected mayors and city councils.

Major political parties:

Gran Alianza Nacional (GANA—a coalition of three parties), Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG), National Advancement Party (PAN), National Union for Hope (UNE), New Nation Alliance (ANN), Unionists (Unionistas), Patriot Party (PP)

Suffrage:

Universal for adults 18 and over who are not serving on active duty with the armed forces or police. A variety of procedural obstacles have historically reduced participation by poor, rural, and indigenous people.

Economy

GDP (2004 est.):

$27.2 billion.

Annual growth rate (2004 est.):

2.7%.

Per capita GDP (2004 est.):

$2,200.

Natural resources:

Oil, timber, nickel.

Agriculture (23% of GDP):

Products—coffee, sugar, bananas, cardamom, vegetables, flowers and plants, timber, rice, rubber.

Manufacturing (13% of GDP):

Types—prepared food, clothing and textiles, construction materials, tires, pharmaceuticals.

Trade (2004):

Exports—$2.9 billion: coffee, bananas, sugar, crude oil, chemical products, clothing and textiles, vegetables. Major markets—U.S. 28.9%, Central American Common Market (CACM) 42.4%, Mexico 4.8%. Imports—$7.8 billion: machinery and equipment, mineral products, chemical products, vehicles and transport materials, plastic materials and products. Major suppliers—U.S. 39.6%, CACM 12.3%, Mexico 8.3%, Japan 3.8%, Germany 2.4%.


PEOPLE

More than half of Guatemalans are descendants of indigenous Mayan peoples. Westernized Mayans and mestizos (mixed European and indigenous ancestry) are known as Ladinos. Most of Guatemala's population is rural, though urbanization is accelerating. The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism, into which many indigenous Guatemalans have incorporated traditional forms of worship. Protestantism and traditional Mayan religions are practiced by an estimated 40% and 1% of the population, respectively. Though the official language is Spanish, it is not universally understood among the indigenous population. The peace accords signed in December 1996 provide for the translation of some official documents and voting materials into several indigenous languages.


HISTORY

The Mayan civilization flourished throughout much of Guatemala and the surrounding region long before the Spanish arrived, but it was already in decline when the Mayans were defeated by Pedro de Alvarado in 1523-24. The first colonial capital, Ciudad Vieja, was ruined by floods and an earthquake in 1542. Survivors founded Antigua, the second capital, in 1543. Antigua was destroyed by two earthquakes in 1773. The remnants of its Spanish colonial architecture have been preserved as a national monument. The third capital, Guatemala City, was founded in 1776.

Guatemala gained independence from Spain on September 15, 1821; it briefly became part of the Mexican Empire, and then for a period belonged to a federation called the United Provinces of Central America. From the mid-19th century until the mid-1980s, the country passed through a series of dictatorships, insurgencies (particularly beginning in the 1960s), coups, and stretches of military rule with only occasional periods of representative government.

1944 to 1986

In 1944, Gen. Jorge Ubico's dictator-ship was overthrown by the "October Revolutionaries," a group of dissident military officers, students, and liberal professionals. A civilian President, Juan Jose Arevalo, was elected in 1945 and held the presidency until 1951. Social reforms initiated by Arevalo were continued by his successor, Col. Jacobo Arbenz. Arbenz permitted the communist Guatemalan Labor Party to gain legal status in 1952. The army refused to defend the Arbenz government when a U.S.backed group led by Col. Carlos Castillo Armas invaded the country from Honduras in 1954 and quickly took over the government. Gen. Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes took power in 1958 following the murder of Colonel Castillo Armas.

In response to the increasingly autocratic rule of Ydigoras Fuentes, a group of junior military officers revolted in 1960. When they failed, several went into hiding and established close ties with Cuba. This group became the nucleus of the forces that were in armed insurrection against the government for the next 36 years. Four principal left-wing guerrilla groups—the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP), the Revolutionary Organization of Armed People (ORPA), the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR), and the Guatemalan Labor Party (PGT)—conducted economic sabotage and targeted government installations and members of government security forces in armed attacks. These organizations combined to form the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) in 1982.

Shortly after President Julio Cesar Mendez Montenegro took office in 1966, the army launched a major counterinsurgency campaign that largely broke up the guerrilla movement in the countryside. The guerrillas then concentrated their attacks in Guatemala City, where they assassinated many leading figures, including U.S. Ambassador John Gordon Mein in 1968. Between 1966 and 1982, there was a series of military or military-dominated governments.

On March 23, 1982, army troops commanded by junior officers staged a coup to prevent the assumption of power by Gen. Angel Anibal Guevara, the hand-picked candidate of outgoing President and Gen. Romeo Lucas Garcia. They denounced Guevara's electoral victory as fraudulent. The coup leaders asked retired Gen. Efrain Rios Montt to negotiate the departure of Lucas and Guevara.

Rios Montt was at this time a lay pastor in the evangelical protestant "Church of the Word." He formed a three-member military junta that annulled the 1965 constitution, dissolved Congress, suspended political parties, and canceled the electoral law. After a few months, Rios Montt dismissed his junta colleagues and assumed the de facto title of "President of the Republic."

Guerrilla forces and their leftist allies denounced Rios Montt. Rios Montt sought to defeat the guerrillas with military actions and economic reforms; in his words, "rifles and beans." The government began to form local civilian defense patrols (PACs). Participation was in theory voluntary, but in reality, many Guatemalans, especially in the heavily indigenous northwest, had no choice but to join either the PACs or the guerrillas. Rios Montt's conscript army and PACs recaptured essentially all guerrilla territory—guerrilla activity lessened and was largely limited to hit-and-run operations. However, Rios Montt won this partial victory at an enormous cost in civilian deaths, in what was probably the most violent period of the 36-year internal conflict, resulting in about 200,000 deaths of mostly unarmed indigenous civilians.

On August 8, 1983, Rios Montt was deposed by his own Minister of Defense, Gen. Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores, who succeeded him as de facto President of Guatemala. Rios Montt survived to found a political party (the Guatemalan Republic Front) and to be elected President of Congress in 1995 and 2000. Awareness in the United States of the conflict in Guatemala, and its ethnic dimension, increased with the 1983 publication of the book I, Rigoberta Menchu, An Indian Woman in Guatemala.

General Mejia allowed a managed return to democracy in Guatemala, starting with a July 1, 1984 election for a Constituent Assembly to draft a democratic constitution. On May 30, 1985, after 9 months of debate, the Constituent Assembly finished drafting a new constitution, which took effect immediately. Vinicio Cerezo, a civilian politician and the presidential candidate of the Christian Democracy Party, won the first election held under the new constitution with almost 70% of the vote, and took office on January 14, 1986.

1986 to 2003

Upon its inauguration in January 1986, President Cerezo's civilian government announced that its top priorities would be to end the political violence and establish the rule of law. Reforms included new laws of habeas corpus and amparo (court-ordered protection), the creation of a legislative human rights committee, and the establishment in 1987 of the Office of Human Rights Ombudsman. Cerezo survived coup attempts in 1988 and 1989, and the final 2 years of Cerezo's government were also marked by a failing economy, strikes, protest marches, and allegations of widespread corruption.

Presidential and congressional elections were held on November 11, 1990. After a runoff ballot, Jorge Serrano was inaugurated on January 14, 1991, thus completing the first transition from one democratically elected civilian government to another.

The Serrano administration's record was mixed. It had some success in consolidating civilian control over the army, replacing a number of senior officers and persuading the military to participate in peace talks with the URNG. Serrano took the politically unpopular step of recognizing the sovereignty of Belize. The Serrano government reversed the economic slide it inherited, reducing inflation and boosting real growth.

On May 25, 1993, Serrano illegally dissolved Congress and the Supreme Court and tried to restrict civil freedoms, allegedly to fight corruption. The "autogolpe" (or self-initiated coup) failed due to unified, strong protests by most elements of Guatemalan society, international pressure, and the army's enforcement of the decisions of the Court of Constitutionality, which ruled against the attempted takeover. Serrano fled the country.

On June 5, 1993, the Congress, pursuant to the 1985 constitution, elected the Human Rights Ombudsman, Ramiro De Leon Carpio, to complete Serrano's presidential term. De Leon, not a member of any political party and lacking a political base but with strong popular support, launched an ambitious anticorruption campaign to "purify" Congress and the Supreme Court, demanding the resignations of all members of the two bodies.

Despite considerable congressional resistance, presidential and popular pressure led to a November 1993 agreement brokered by the Catholic Church between the administration and Congress. This package of constitutional reforms was approved by popular referendum on January 30, 1994. In August 1994, a new Congress was elected to complete the unexpired term.

Under De Leon, the peace process, now brokered by the United Nations, took on new life. The government and the URNG signed agreements on human rights (March 1994), resettlement of displaced persons (June 1994), historical clarification (June 1994), and indigenous rights (March 1995). They also made significant progress on a socioeconomic and agrarian agreement. National elections for president, the Congress, and municipal offices were held in November 1995. With almost 20 parties competing in the first round, the presidential election came down to a January 7, 1996 runoff in which National Advancement Party (PAN) candidate Alvaro Arzu defeated Alfonso Portillo of the Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG) by just over 2% of the vote. Under the Arzu administration, peace negotiations were concluded, and the government signed peace accords ending the 36-year internal conflict in December 1996. The human rights situation also improved during Arzu's tenure, and steps were taken to reduce the influence of the military in national affairs.

In a December 1999 presidential runoff, Alfonso Portillo (FRG) won 68% of the vote to 32% for Oscar Berger (PAN). Portillo's impressive electoral triumph, with two-thirds of the vote in the second round, gave him a claim to a mandate from the people to carry out his reform program.

Progress in carrying out Portillo's reform agenda was slow at best, with the notable exception of a series of reforms sponsored by the World Bank to modernize bank regulation and criminalize money laundering. The United States determined in April 2003 that Guatemala had failed to demonstrably adhere to its international counternarcotics commitments during the previous year.

A high crime rate and a serious and worsening public corruption problem were cause for concern for the Government of Guatemala. These problems, in addition to issues related to the often violent harassment and intimidation by unknown assailants of human rights activists, judicial workers, journalists, and witnesses in human rights trials, led the government to begin serious attempts in 2001 to open a national dialogue to discuss the considerable challenges facing the country.

National elections were held on November 9, 2003. Oscar Berger Perdomo of the Grand National Alliance (GANA) party won the election, receiving 54.1% of the vote. His opponent, Alvarado Colom Caballeros of the Nation Unity for Hope (UNE) party received 45.9% of the vote. The new government assumed office on January 14, 2004.


GOVERNMENT

Guatemala's 1985 constitution provides for a separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The 1993 constitutional reforms included an increase in the number of Supreme Court justices from 9 to 13. The reforms reduced the terms of office for president, vice president, and congressional representatives from 5 years to 4 years, and for Supreme Court justices from 6 years to 5 years; they increased the terms of mayors and city councils from 2-1/2 years to 4 years.

The president and vice president are directly elected through universal suffrage and limited to one term. A vice president can run for president after 4 years out of office. Supreme Court justices are elected by the Congress from a list submitted by the bar association, law school deans, a university rector, and appellate judges. The Supreme Court and local courts handle civil and criminal cases. There also is a separate Constitutional Court.

Guatemala has 22 administrative subdivisions (departments) administered by governors appointed by the president. Guatemala City and 331 other municipalities are governed by popularly elected mayors or councils.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 12/30/2005

President: Oscar BERGER Perdomo
Vice President: Eduardo STEIN
Min. of Agriculture: Alvaro AGUILAR
Min. of Communication & Public Works: Eduardo CASTILLO
Min. of Culture & Sports: Manuel SALAZAR Tezaguic
Min. of Defense: Francisco BERMUDEZ Amado, Brig. Gen.
Min. of Economy: Marcio CUEVAS Posadas
Min. of Education: Maria ACENA delCarmen
Min. of Energy & Mines: Luis Romero ORTIZ Pelaez
Min. of Environment & Natural Resources: Juan Mario DARY Fuentes
Min. of External Relations: Jorge BRIZ Abularach
Min. of Finance: Maria Antonieta del Cid de BONILLA
Min. of Government: Carlos VIELMAN
Min. of Labor: Jorge GALLARDO
Min. of Public Health & Social Assistance: Marco Tulio SOSA Ramirez
Attorney General: Juan Luis FLORIDO
Solicitor General: Luis Alfonso ROSALES
Sec. Gen. of the Presidency: Jorge Raul ARROYAVE Reyes
Pres., Bank of Guatemala: Lizardo SOSA Lopez
Ambassador to the US: Guillermo CASTILLO
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Jorge SKINNER-KLEE Arenales

The Guatemalan embassy is located at 2220 R Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-745-4952; email: [email protected]). Consulates are in Washington, New York, Miami, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Denver, and Los Angeles, and honorary consuls in Montgomery, San Diego, Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta, Leavenworth, Lafayette, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Juan, Providence, Memphis, San Antonio, and Seattle. See the State Department Web page: http://www.state.gov/s/cpr/rls/fco/.


POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Portillo's 1999 landslide victory combined with an FRG majority in Congress suggested possibilities for rapid legislative action. However, under the Guatemalan constitution of 1985, passage of many kinds of legislation requires a two-thirds vote. Passage of such legislation was not possible, therefore, with FRG votes alone.

The government increased several tax rates in 2001 in an attempt to meet the target of increasing its tax burden (at about 10.7% of GDP, currently the lowest in the region) to 12% of GDP. However, protestors took to the streets massively when the government sought further increases in August 2001, declaring their opposition to any new taxes until the Portillo administration provided better accountability for the taxes it already received.

Violent harassment of human rights workers presented a serious challenge in 2002 and 2003. Common crime, aggravated by a legacy of violence and vigilante justice, presented another serious challenge. Impunity remained a major problem, primarily because democratic institutions, including those responsible for the administration of justice, have developed only a limited capacity to cope with this legacy. Guatemala's judiciary is independent; however, it suffered during 2003 from inefficiency, corruption, and intimidation.

In early 2003, the government accepted the Human Rights Ombudsman's proposal for a U.N.-led commission to investigate possible links between illegal clandestine groups or security forces and attacks on human rights defenders and organized crime. By the end of 2003, the agreement was scheduled to be submitted to the Congress for ratification in January 2004. The UN Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) ceased its 10-year project of monitoring peace accord implementation and human rights problems in November 2004 with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan declaring Guatemala had made "enormous progress in managing the country's problems through dialogue and institutions". The United Nations and Guatemala agreed to open an Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and form a special body to investigate clandestine groups. That operation began in January 2005.


ECONOMY

After the signing of the final peace accord in December 1996, Guatemala was well-positioned for rapid economic growth over the next several years, until a financial crisis in 1998 disrupted the course of improvement. The subsequent collapse of coffee prices left what was once the country's leading export sector in depression and had a severe impact on rural incomes. Foreign investment inflows have been weak, with the exception of the privatization of utilities. Potential investors, both foreign and domestic, cite corruption, lack of physical security, a climate of confrontation between the government and private sector, and unreliable mechanisms for contract enforcement as the principal barriers to new business. On a more positive note, Guatemala's macroeconomic management was sound under the Portillo administration, and its foreign debt levels are modest. The country subscribed to a standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2002, which it extended in June 2003.

Guatemala's economy is dominated by the private sector, which generates about 85% of GDP. Agriculture contributes 23% of GDP and accounts for 75% of exports. Most manufacturing is light assembly and food processing, geared to the domestic, U.S., and Central American markets. Over the past several years, tourism and exports of textiles, apparel, and nontraditional agricultural products such as winter vegetables, fruit, and cut flowers have boomed, while more traditional exports such as sugar, bananas, and coffee continue to represent a large share of the export market.

The United States is the country's largest trading partner, providing 39.6% of Guatemala's imports and receiving 28.9% of its exports. The government 's involvement is small, with its business activities limited to public utilities—some of which have been privatized—ports and airports, and several development-oriented financial institutions.

Guatemala ratified the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement, commonly known as CAFTA, on March 10, 2005. Priorities within CAFTA include eliminating customs tariffs on as many categories of goods as possible; opening services sectors; and creating clear and readily enforceable rules in areas such as investment, government procurement, intellectual property protection, customs procedures, electronic commerce, the use of sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures to protect public health, and resolution of business disputes. Import tariffs have already been lowered together with Guatemala's partners in the Central American Common Market, with most now under 15%.

Other priorities include increasing transparency and accountability in Guatemala's public finances, broadening the tax base, and completing implementation of financial sector reforms. These measures attempt to ensure that Guatemala can comply with the standards of the international Financial Action Task Force for detecting and preventing money laundering.

The United States, along with other donor countries—especially France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Japan—and the international financial institutions, have increased development project financing since the signing of the peace accords. However, donor support remains contingent upon Guatemalan Government reforms and counterpart financing.

The distribution of income and wealth remains highly skewed. The wealthiest 10% of the population receives almost one-half of all income; the top 20% receives two-thirds of all income. As a result, about 80% of the population lives in poverty, and twothirds of that number—or 7.6 million people—live in extreme poverty. Guatemala's social development indicators, such as infant mortality and illiteracy, are among the worst in the hemisphere. Chronic malnutrition among the rural poor worsened with the onset of the crisis in coffee prices, and the United States has provided disaster assistance and food aid in response.


NATIONAL SECURITY

Guatemala is a signatory to the Rio Pact and is a member of the Central American Defense Council (CONDECA). The president is commander in chief. The Defense Minister is responsible for policy. Day-to-day operations are the responsibility of the military chief of staff and the national defense staff.

An agreement signed in September 1996, which is one of the substantive peace accords, mandated that the mission of the armed forces change to focus exclusively on external threats. However, both former President Arzu and his successor President Portillo used a constitutional clause to order the army to temporarily support the police in response to a nationwide wave of violent crime.

The accord calls for a one-third reduction in the army's authorized strength and budget—already achieved—and for a constitutional amendment to permit the appointment of a civilian Minister of Defense. A constitutional amendment to this end was defeated as part of a May 1999 plebiscite, but discussions on how to achieve this objective continue between the executive and legislative branches.

The army has gone beyond its accord-mandated target of reducing its strength to 28,000 troops, and numbered 15,500 troops as of June 2004. Not only was this the most profound transformation of any Central American military in the last 50 years, it also illustrates the effective control the civilian government has over the military. President Berger has tasked the Defense Ministry with increasing the professional skills of all soldiers. The military is equipped with armaments and materiel from the United States, Israel, Serbia and Montenegro, Taiwan, Argentina, Spain, and France. As part of the army downsizing, the operational structure of 19 military zones and three strategic brigades were recast as several military zones are eliminated and their area of operations absorbed by others. The air force operates three air bases; the navy has two port bases. Additionally, recent steps have been taken to redefine the military's mission—the military doctrine has been rewritten, and there has been an increase in cooperation with civil society to help bring about this reform.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Guatemala's major diplomatic interests are regional security and, increasingly, regional development and economic integration. Guatemala participates in several regional groups, particularly those related to trade and the environment.

The Council of Central American Ministers of Trade meets on a regular basis to work on regional approaches to trade issues. The council signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the U.S. in 1998, and was part of the negotiations that led to the creation of CAFTA. Guatemala joined Honduras and El Salvador in signing a free trade agreement with Mexico in 2000, which went into effect the following year. Guatemala also originated the idea for, and is the seat of, the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN).

President Bill Clinton and the Central American presidents signed the CONCAUSA (Conjunto Centroamer-ica-USA) agreement at the Summit of the Americas in December 1994. CONCAUSA is a cooperative plan of action to promote clean, efficient energy use; conserve the region's biodiversity; strengthen legal and institutional frameworks and compliance mechanisms; and improve and harmonize environmental protection standards.

Guatemala has a long-standing claim to a large portion of Belize; the territorial dispute caused problems with the United Kingdom and later with Belize following its 1981 independence from the U.K. In December 1989, Guatemala sponsored Belize for permanent observer status in the Organization of American States (OAS). In September 1991, Guatemala recognized Belize's independence and established diplomatic ties, while acknowledging that the boundaries remained in dispute. In anticipation of an effort to bring the border dispute to an end in early 1996, the Guatemalan Congress ratified two long-pending international agreements governing frontier issues and maritime rights. In 2001, Guatemala and Belize agreed to a facilitation process led by the OAS to determine the land and maritime borders separating the two countries. National elections in Guatemala put a temporary halt to progress, but discussions will resume at a bilateral meeting on the margins of the Summit of the Americas in early November 2005 and a Foreign Minister-level meeting November 14-15, 2005 in San Pedro, Belize.


U.S.-GUATEMALAN RELATIONS

Relations between the United States and Guatemala traditionally have been close, although at times strained by human rights and civil/military issues. U.S. policy objectives in Guatemala include:

  • Supporting the institutionalization of democracy and implementation of the peace accords;
  • Ratification of a free trade agreement, together with the other Central American countries;
  • Encouraging respect for human rights and the rule of law, and implementation of the Commission for the Investigation of Illegal Groups and Clandestine Security Organizations in Guatemala (CICIACS);
  • Supporting broad-based economic growth and sustainable development and maintaining mutually beneficial trade and commercial relations;
  • Cooperating to combat money laundering, corruption, narcotics trafficking, alien-smuggling, and other transnational crime; and
  • Supporting Central American integration through support for resolution of border/territorial disputes.

The United States, as a member of "the Friends of Guatemala," along with Colombia, Mexico, Spain, Norway, and Venezuela, played an important role in the UN-moderated peace accords, providing public and behind-the-scenes support. The U.S. strongly supports the six substantive and three procedural accords, which, along with the signing of the December 29, 1996 final accord, form the blueprint for profound political, economic, and social change. To that end, the U.S. Government has committed nearly $400 million to support peace implementation since 1997.

Although almost all of the 230,000 U.S. tourists who visit Guatemala annually do so without incident, in recent years the number of violent crime reported by U.S. citizens has steadily increased. Increases in the number of Americans reported as victims of violent crime may be the result of any combination of factors: increased numbers of Americans traveling to Guatemala; increased accuracy in the Embassy's reporting of crime; more Americans traveling to higher risk areas of Guatemala; or more crime.

Most U.S. assistance to Guatemala is provided through the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) offices for Guatemala and Central American Programs (USAID/G-CAP). USAID's programs support U.S. foreign policy objectives by promoting reforms in democratic governance, economic growth, and the social sectors, with special emphasis on the rural indigenous poor whose lives have been most seriously affected by the internal civil conflict. In addition to earning low incomes, these populations have limited economic opportunities for economic advancement, lack access to social services, and have limited access to, or influence over, the policymaking processes. Totaling $45 million annually, USAID programs pursue six objectives. These are:

  • Supporting the implementation of the 1996 peace accords;
  • Aiding the improvement of the legal system and assisting citizens in its use;
  • Increasing educational access and quality for all Guatemalans;
  • Improving the health of Guatemalan women, children, and rural families;
  • Increasing the earning capacity of poor rural families; and
  • Expanding natural resources management and conservation of biodiversity.

USAID's largest program is the support of the peace accords. The accords require major investments in health, education, and other basic services to reach the rural indigenous poor and require the full participation of the indigenous people in local and national decision-making. They also call for a profound restructuring of the state, affecting some of its most fundamental institutions—the military, the national police, and the system of justice—in order to end impunity and confirm the rule of law. Finally, they require basic changes in tax collection and expenditure and improved financial management.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

GUATEMALA (E) Address: Ave. Reforma 7-01, Zona 10; APO/FPO: APO AA 34024; Phone: (502) 2326-4000; Fax: (502) 2334-8477; INMARSAT Tel: 683133345; Workweek: Mon-Thu: 7:30 to 5:00 p.m.; Fri: 7:30 to 12:30; Website: http://guatemala. usembassy.gov/

AMB:James M. Derham
AMB OMS:Elizabeth Selva
DCM/CHG:Bruce Wharton
DCM OMS:Maryann Hughes
CG:John Lowell
POL:Alexander Featherstone
MGT:Scott Heckman
AGR:Steve Huete
AID:Glenn Anders
APHIS:Gordon Tween
CLO:Tracy Schmidt
DAO:Edward Bonfoey, Acting
DEA:Michael O'Brien
ECO:Oliver Griffith
EEO:Mike Rinker
FCS:Mitch Larsen
FMO:Tor Petersen
GSO:Dan Hamilton
ICASS Chair:Steve Huete
IMO:Mike Rinker
INS:Joseph Roma
IPO:Stephen Wheelock
ISO:Ray Harger
LAB:Troy Fitrell
MLO:Mark Wilkins
NAS:Dan Bellegarde
PAO:David Young
RSO:John Eustace
State ICASS:Alexander Featherstone
Last Updated: 1/4/2006

Other Contact Information

U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration Trade Information Center
14th and Constitution, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 800-USA-TRADE
Internet: http://www.ita.doc.gov

American Chamber of Commerce in Guatemala
5a avenida 5-55 zona 14 Europlaza,
Torre I Nivel 5
01014 Guatemala City, Guatemala
Tel: (502) 2333-3899
Fax: (502) 2368-3536
E-Mail: [email protected]

Caribbean/Latin American Action
1818 N Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel.: 202-466-7464
Fax: 202-822-0075


TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

March 21, 2005

Country Description:

Guatemala has a developing economy, characterized by wide income disparities. Hotels and other tourist facilities in areas frequented by visitors from the United States are generally good. A peace accord, signed in 1996, ended a 36-year armed conflict. Violent crime, however, is a serious and growing concern due to endemic poverty, an abundance of weapons, a legacy of societal violence, and a dysfunctional judicial system.

Entry/Exit Requirements:

A valid U.S. passport is required for all U.S. citizens to enter Guatemala and to depart Guatemala for return to the U.S. Even if dual nationals are permitted to enter Guatemala on a second nationality passport, U.S. citizens returning to the United States from Guatemala are not allowed to board their flights without a valid U.S. passport. Certificates of Naturalization, birth certificates, driver's licenses, and photocopies are not acceptable alternative travel documents. While in Guatemala, U.S. citizens should carry their passports, or a photocopy of their passports, with them at all times.

An exit tax must be paid when departing Guatemala. The exit tax (currently $30) is generally included in an airline ticket price, but may be charged separately. There is an additional airport security fee (20 Quetzales, approximately $2.50) that all travelers must pay at the airport.

Minors under 18 traveling with a valid U.S. passport need no special permission from their parents to enter or leave Guatemala. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for a stay of 90 days or less (that period can be extended for an additional 180 days upon application to Guatemalan immigration). Recently, in an attempt to stay longer than 90 or 180 days, some foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, have obtained false or fraudulent immigration stamps in their passports showing they left and reentered Guatemala. Immigration officials have detained and fined several such individuals.

A U.S. citizen whose passport is lost or stolen in Guatemala must obtain a new passport at the U.S. Embassy as soon as possible and present it, together with a police report of the loss or theft, to the Dirección de Migración (Guatemalan immigration agency), Sub-director for Migratory Control, to obtain permission to depart Guatemala. The agency is located at 4 Calle 4-37, Zone 9. Office hours are weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. telephone 360-8578, 360-8544, 360-8580 or 360-8540. No fee is charged by Guatemalan immigration for this service.

For further information regarding entry, exit and customs requirements, travelers should contact the Guatemalan Embassy at 2220 R Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008; telephone (202) 745-4952, extension 102; fax (202) 745-1908; e-mail at [email protected]; Internet website-http://www.guatemalaembassy.org or contact the nearest Guatemalan consulate (Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, or San Francisco).

Safety and Security:

Violent criminal activity has been a problem in all parts of Guatemala for years, including numerous murders, rapes, and armed assaults against foreigners. The police force is young, inexperienced, and under-funded, and the judicial system is weak, overworked, and inefficient. Criminals, armed with an impressive array of weapons, know that there is little chance they will be caught and punished. Traditionally, Guatemala experiences increases in crime before and during the Christmas and Easter holiday seasons.

Large demonstrations occasionally occur throughout Guatemala, often with little or no notice, and they can cause serious traffic disruptions. Although most demonstrations are peaceful, they can turn violent, and travelers should avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place. The use of roadblocks and/or blocking of public facilities, including the international airport, has increased and demonstrators may prevent tourists caught behind the blockades from leaving.

The following recommendations will help residents and visitors alike to increase their safety: Avoid gatherings of agitated people. Guatemalan citizen frustration with crime and a lack of appropriate judicial remedies has led to violent incidents of vigilantism, including lynching, especially in more isolated, rural areas. Attempting to intervene may put you at risk of attacks from mobs.

Avoid close contact with children, including taking photographs, especially in rural areas. Such contact can be viewed with deep alarm and may provoke panic and violence. Rumors of foreigners stealing children to sell surface periodically and can provoke a violent response towards strangers. Foreign tourists have been attacked by mobs and one has been killed.

Keep informed of possible demonstrations by following the local news and consulting hotel personnel and tour guides. Avoid areas where demonstrations are occurring.

Strong currents, riptides, and under-tow along Guatemala's Pacific Coast beaches pose a serious threat to even the strongest swimmers. Signs warning of treacherous surf are rare and confined mostly to private beaches owned by hotels. Lifeguards are rarely present on beaches.

Tourists planning to climb Pacaya and Agua volcanoes during Guatemala's rainy season (May through October) should plan their climb for the morning hours, when it is less likely that thunderstorms will occur. Climbers should monitor the weather situation and return to the base of the volcano as quickly and safely possible if thunderstorms gather. A Canadian tourist was recently killed by lightening while climbing Pacaya. In addition, armed robbers have targeted tourists while they were climbing these popular destinations. Climbing in groups reduces, but does not eliminate, the risk of assault.

More information about tourist security is available from the Tourist Protection Office of INGUAT (the Guatemalan Tourist Board) at 7a Avenida 1-17, Zona 4 Centro Cívico, Ciudad de Guatemala. The direct telephone number for tourist assistance is (502) 2-421-2810, the PBX is (502) 2-421-2879, and the fax is (502) 2-421-2891. INGUAT may be reached by toll free numbers within the United States at (1-800) 464-8281 or within Guatemala at (1-801) 464-8281. The e-mail address is [email protected] For emergencies, INGUAT may be reached 24 hours, seven days a week at (502) 2-241-2810 or (502) 5-578-9836. Tourist groups may request security assistance from INGUAT, Attention: Coordinator of the National Tourist Assistance Program. The request should be submitted by mail, fax or e-mail and should arrive at INGUAT at least three business days in advance of the proposed travel, giving the itinerary, names of travelers, and model and color of vehicle in which they will be traveling. Travelers should be aware that INGUAT has very limited personnel and resources, so it might not be able to accommodate all requests.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime:

The number of violent crimes reported by U.S. citizens and other foreigners has increased in recent years. Incidents include, but are not limited to, assault, theft, armed robbery, carjacking, rape, kidnapping, and murder. Criminals generally operate in groups of four or more and are considerably confrontational and violent. Gangs are a growing concern in Guatemala City as well as in rural Guatemala. Gang members are often well armed with sophisticated weaponry and they sometimes use massive amounts of force. Emboldened armed robbers have attacked vehicles on main roads in broad daylight. Travel on rural roads always increases the risk of a criminal roadblock or ambush. Widespread narcotics and alien smuggling activities can make remote areas especially dangerous. Though there is no evidence that Americans are particularly targeted, criminals look for every opportunity to attack, so all travelers should remain constantly vigilant.

Although the majority of tourists travel throughout Guatemala without mishap, violent criminal activity on the highways has increased, and tourists, among others, have been targeted. Armed robbers have intercepted vehicles on the main roads in broad daylight. Recent cases of highway banditry have included the rape of women and girls. At least four tourists were killed in highway robbery attempts in 2002 and at least three were killed and one wounded in 2003. Five Americans were killed in 2004; two of these were in highway assaults. In some cases, assailants have been wearing full or partial police uniforms and have used vehicles that resemble police vehicles, indicating that some elements of the police might be involved. Armed robberies have occurred within minutes of the tourist's vehicle being stopped by the police. U.S. Embassy personnel continue to observe heightened security precautions in Guatemala City and on the roads outside the capital city. U.S. tourists are urged to be especially aware of safety and security concerns when traveling on the roads in Guatemala.

Rather than traveling alone, use a reputable tour organization. Stay in groups; travel in a caravan consisting of two or more vehicles; and, stay on the main roads. Ensure that someone not traveling with you is aware of your itinerary. Resist the temptation to stay in hotels that do not have adequate security. Travel after dark anywhere in Guatemala is extremely dangerous. Stay in the main tourist destinations. Do not explore back roads or isolated paths near tourist sites. Pay close attention to your surroundings, especially when walking or when driving in Guatemala City. Refrain from displaying expensive-looking jewelry, large amounts of money, or other valuable items. Finally, if confronted by criminals, be aware that resistance may provoke a more violent response.

Additional information: Pickpockets and purse-snatchers are active in all major cities and tourist sites, especially the central market and other parts of Zone 1 in Guatemala City and the city of Antigua. In a common scenario, an accomplice distracts the victim, while an assailant slashes or simply steals a bag or backpack while the victim's attention is diverted.

Robbers also use a number of scams to steal money and possessions from tourists in Guatemala. In one popular scam, robbers place a nail in a parked vehicle's tire. The vehicle is then followed by the robbers who pose as "good Samaritans" when the tire becomes flat and the victims pull to the side of the road. While "help" is being rendered, the contents of the car are stolen, often without the knowledge of the victims. However, in some cases, the robbers have threatened the tourists with weapons. Parking areas in and around the Guatemala City International Airport are particularly prone to this crime. In another scam, victims are approached in a hotel, restaurant or other public place by an individual claiming there is some sort of problem with his or the would-be victim's automobile in the parking lot. On the way to investigate the "problem," usually in a remote or concealed area near the parking lot, the robber pulls a gun on the victim demanding cash, credit cards and other valuables. A third popular scam involves various attempts to acquire a victim's ATM card and PIN number. Some sophisticated criminals have even placed boxes outside ATM kiosks that record PIN numbers when unsuspecting victims believe they must enter their PIN number to gain entry to the ATM foyer. After recording PIN numbers, robbers then steal the owner's ATM card to complete their crime. There are dozens of techniques scammers can use to rob victims of money and possessions. While most people mean no harm, always be cautious when strangers approach you for any reason or make unusual requests.

For security reasons, the Embassy does not allow U.S. government employees to stay in hotels in Zone 1 in Guatemala City and urges private travelers to avoid staying in this area.

Carjackings and highway robberies have become increasingly violent. At least four tourists were killed in highway robbery attempts in 2002 and at least three killed and one wounded in 2003. Many of the robbery attempts have occurred in daylight hours on main highways.

Avoid low-priced intra- and inter-city buses (recycled U.S. school buses); they are a haven for criminals and susceptible to accidents. The use of modern inter-city buses somewhat improves security and safety. There have been, however, several attacks on travelers on first-class buses on highway CA-2 near the border areas with both Mexico and El Salvador and on highways CA-1 and CA-9 near the El Salvador border. Be cautious with personal items such as backpacks and fanny packs while riding buses, because tourists' possessions are a favorite target of thieves.

Do not hail taxis on the street in Guatemala City. Use dispatched taxis or taxis from major hotels instead.

The main road to Lake Atitlan via the Pan-American Highway (CA-1) and Solola is safer than the alternatives, though recent attacks have made traveling in a caravan highly recommended, even on the Pan-American Highway. Robbery and assault have been frequently reported on secondary roads near the lake. Robbers have used mountain roads advantageously to stop buses, vans and cars in a variety of ways.

Armed attacks have occurred on roads from Guatemala City to the Peten. Visitors to the Mayan ruins at Tikal are urged to fly to nearby Flores and then travel by bus or tour van to the site.

Violent attacks have occurred in the Mayan ruins in the Peten, including in the Cerro Cahui Conservation Park, Yaxha, the road to and inside Tikal Park, and in the Tikal ruins. Tourist police (POLITUR) patrols inside the park have significantly reduced the violent crime incidents inside the park, but travelers should nevertheless remain in groups and on the principal trails leading to the Central Plaza and the Temple IV complex, and avoid remote areas of the park, such as the Mundo Perdido and Temple VI areas.

Foreign residents of Guatemala have special concerns. At least 16 American citizen residents and five American citizen tourists have been murdered since December 1999, and only one suspect in one case has been convicted. None of the others has been solved. There has been a recent rise in "express" kidnappings, primarily in Guatemala City, in which a relatively small ransom that can be quickly gathered is demanded. U.S. citizens have been kidnapped in recent years. At least one incident of a random kidnapping, in which the victim was grabbed off the street in an affluent neighborhood of the city, occurred in December 2003 and resulted in a physical and sexual assault.

Information for Victims of Crime:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information:

A full range of medical care is available in Guatemala City, but medical care outside the city is limited. Guatemala's public hospitals frequently experience serious shortages of basic medicines and equipment. Care in private hospitals is generally adequate for most common illnesses and injuries.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Guatemala is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Driving in Guatemala requires one's full attention, and safe drivers must take extraordinary efforts to drive defensively to avoid dangerous situations.

Because of lax law enforcement, traffic rules are generally ignored. Many drivers do not use their turn signals to alert other drivers. Instead, a common custom is for a driver or passenger to stick a hand out the window and wave it to indicate that they will be taking an unspecified action. Speed limits, lane markings and stop signs are frequently ignored. Passing blindly on winding and/or steep mountain roads, poorly designed surfaces, and unmarked hazards present additional risks to motorists.

Common public transportation is by low-priced buses, which serve every town in the country. Criminal activity and frequent fatal accidents, however, make the low-priced inter-city buses particularly dangerous. Modern inter-city buses offer some security from highway violence, but armed attacks are increasing, showing that all buses are vulnerable.

Although city streets are lit, secondary and rural roads have little to no illumination. The Inter-American Highway (CA-1) and the road from Guatemala City to the Caribbean coast (CA-9) are especially dangerous due to heavy traffic, including large trucks and trailers. There are no roadside assistance clubs and no emergency transit services. Police patrol the major roadways and may assist travelers, but the patrols are sporadic and may be suspended due to budget restraints. For roadside assistance, travelers may call the police by dialing 120 or the fire department by dialing 122 or 123. Cellular telephone service covers most areas frequented by tourists.

Valid U.S. driver's licenses and international driving permits are accepted in Guatemala. Guatemala's road safety authorities are the Department of Transit and the Joint Operations Center of the National Police. Drivers use the right-hand side of the road in Guatemala, and speed limits are posted depending on the condition of the road. Speed limits are different in rural and urban areas, but are rarely enforced. Drivers often drive at the absolute maximum speed possible for the particular vehicle at the time. Turning right on red is not permitted unless otherwise posted, and drivers must yield when entering a traffic circle. Seat belts must be worn in Guatemala, but there are no laws regarding the use of child safety seats. It is against the law for drivers to operate cellular phones while driving.

People found driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs are arrested and may serve jail time. In an accident resulting in injury or death, every driver involved is taken into custody and the vehicle(s) impounded until a judge determines responsibility in a re-enactment of the accident.

Visit the website of Guatemala's national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.inguat.gob.gt or via e-mail at [email protected] or [email protected]

Aviation Safety Oversight:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Guatemala as not being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Guatemala's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's internet web site at www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

Special Circumstances:

Guatemalan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Guatemala of items such as antiquities and other cultural property. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Guatemala in Washington or one of Guatemala's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.

Non-Guatemalan citizens who wish to marry in Guatemala are required to provide proof of identity and civil status (indicating whether they are single or divorced). Prior notice of the marriage must be given in the Diario de Centro America (Guatemala's Official Record) and any large circulation daily newspaper for fifteen days. The marriage must take place within six months of the publication of the notice.

Disaster Preparedness:

Guatemala is a geologically active country. Visitors should be aware of the possibility of earthquakes at any time and the need for contingency plans. There are also four active volcanoes. Volcanic activity, such as that of Fuego Volcano near Antigua in January 2003, has on occasion forced evacuations of nearby villages; the January-February 2000 activity of Pacaya Volcano near Guatemala City also briefly closed Guatemala City's international airport. Both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Guatemala are also vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms from June through November. Mudslides and flooding during the May to November rainy season often kill dozens of people and close roads. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.

Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating Guatemalan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Guatemala are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues:

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location:

Americans living or traveling in Guatemala are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Guatemala. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

You may now also register with the American Citizen Services (ACS) Section using the registration form on the "Consular Notices Index" on the Embassy's homepage at http://usembassy.state.gov/guatemala. You may wish to send a scanned copy of your U.S. passport e-mail to ACS at [email protected] and/or e-mail it to your own address or to someone in the United States. This will enable you to easily retrieve a copy of your passport to facilitate a replacement.

The latest security information is available from the Embassy, including its website, http://usembassy.state.gov/guatemala. The Consular Section is open for citizen services, including registration, from 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon and 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursdays and 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Fridays, excluding U.S. and Guatemalan holidays. The second and last Friday of each month are reserved for administrative matters; therefore, routine citizen services are not provided. Emergency services are available at all times. The U.S. Embassy is located at Avenida La Reforma 7-01, Zone 10; telephone (502) 2-326-4000 during Embassy business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), or (502) 2-331-8904 for emergencies during non-business hours; fax (502) 2-331-0564; Internet website-http://usembassy.state.gov/guatemala.

International Adoption

January 2006

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer:

The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and our current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Guatemala Adoption Procedures:

Adoptions by U.S. citizen parents in Guatemala are processed under a "notarial system." Guatemalan attorneys receive and refer potential orphans to parents desiring to adopt a child. If the parents accept the referral, they will provide the attorney with a power of attorney to act on their behalf to complete an adoption. In most cases the attorney represents the birth parent(s), the adopting parents and the child(ren) in the Guatemalan Government proceedings. After obtaining clearance from a social worker under the supervision of a family court to proceed with a potential adoption case, and upon receipt of "pre-approval" from the Department of Homeland Security Office (DHS) in Guatemala, the attorney submits the case for review by the Guatemalan Solicitor General's Office (Procuradoria General de la Nacion, PGN). The PGN scrutinizes the adoption case for signs of fraud or irregularities before providing its approval of the adoption. Upon receiving PGN approval, the adoptive parents in the U.S. are legally responsible for their child(ren). The attorney obtains final approval from the Guatemalan birth mother and then requests a birth certificate listing the adoptive parents as the parents of the adopted child. With these final documents, the attorney submits the complete case file, including the I-600 orphan visa petition, to DHS in Guatemala. DHS reviews the case and either approves the I-600 or notifies the attorney in writing if any further problems prevent approval of the case. Once DHS approves the I-600, the case is sent to the Embassy's Consular Section and a visa interview is scheduled, usually within a few days. Note that the PGN does not charge fees for adoptions.

Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family

Responsibilities of Your Agency & Guatemalan Attorneys:

The U.S. adoption agency serves as the adopting family's agent, and the Guatemalan attorney serves as an agent for your agency, acting on your behalf. Therefore adoptive parents should be kept informed of all aspects of the identification, care, and adoption process of their prospective adoptive children by the agency or agent. Your adoption agency and/or attorney are your sole contacts for the progress of your adoption in the Guatemalan legal proceedings. You should be aware that the U.S. Embassy does not have information regarding the status of specific cases in the Guatemalan adoption process or Guatemalan passport process nor does the Embassy have authority to intervene in court or in the legal processes in Guatemala adoption process. You must contact your adoption agency or Guatemalan attorney for information on your case status. The Guatemalan attorney, or other accredited representative, must bring the final adoption documents to DHS/at the Embassy upon completion of the Guatemalan portion of the process.

If you have hired an agency in the United States to assist you in the adoption, the agency is responsible for keeping you informed about your case. Ask your agency for the name(s) of your attorney(s) and whether anyone in the attorney's office speaks English, etc.

For U.S.-based agencies, it is suggested that prospective adoptive parents contact the Better Business Bureau and licensing office of the Department of Health and Family Services in the state where the agency is located. The Department of State does not assume any responsibility for the quality of services provided by these private adoption agencies or their employees.

Some families have worked directly with an attorney in Guatemala instead of an intermediary agency or law firm in the United States. While they face certain risks and forego the support of organizations with international adoption experience, families that choose competent, experienced, attorneys can have satisfactory experiences. Unfortunately, some parents have experienced problems working with their Guatemalan attorneys, and prospective adoptive parents are encouraged to research their options before selecting an attorney. Neither the Department of State nor Embassy Guatemala maintains a list of Guatemalan adoption attorneys or makes recommendations. The best method of finding a competent attorney is to obtain referrals from families who have had satisfactory experiences working with a specific attorney. Neither the U.S. Embassy nor the U.S. Department of State can assume any responsibility for the professional ability or personal integrity of Guatemalan attorneys.

U.S. Immigration Requirements:

Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that, whether they identify a child prior to leaving the United States or locate the child on a trip to Guatemala, certain time-consuming processes will have to be completed before the required U.S. immigration petition for the child can be approved by DHS. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family

Before You Travel To Guatemala To Receive the Child:

Before you make airline reservations for yourselves or for an escort and the child, confirm with your Guatemalan attorney or U.S. adoption agency that: 1. If you filed all paperwork in the U.S., the consular section has received a notice of approval of the I-600 petition (visas 38 or 39 cable), and you have all required documents for the interview, including the child's Guatemalan passport and medical exam results.

2. If you plan to file the I-600 petition in Guatemala, the consular section has received a notice of approval of the I-600A application (visas 37 cable), the DHS/ICE office has approved your adoption documents and cleared you for the appointment (after review of the Guatemalan adoption paperwork), and you have all required documents for the interview, including the child's Guatemalan passport.

Escorts:

If neither parent plans to travel to Guatemala and the child will be escorted by a third party for the visa interview, the I-600 Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative must be filed in the U.S. and the Consular Section must have the official cable (called the Visas 38 or 39) from DHS indicating its approval of the I-600 petition. A notarized statement from the adoptive parents will be required authorizing that person to take the child to the United States for the purpose of placing him/her with the prospective adoptive parent(s). This statement can also be included in the judge's authorization for the child to leave Guatemala. The escort must present at the visa interview an original Affidavit of Support signed and notarized by the petitioner who is sponsoring the child, along with the petitioner's last three years of tax returns (W-2 and 1040) and other documentation as described in the Interview section above.

U.S. Fees:

The BCIS fee is $525.00 for an I-600 or I-600A petition. If you have a valid I-600A and file an I-600 within eighteen months of the approval of the I-600A, no fee will be charged for the I-600, provided the petition is for one child or for siblings. If you are petitioning for more than one child and the children are not siblings, an additional fee of $525.00 for the I-600 for each additional child will be charged.

Medical Examination Fee:

The adopted child must have a medical examination performed by one of the U.S. Embassy's panel physicians before the immigrant visa can be issued. The cost of this medical examination is approximately $85 ($100 for children 15 or over), payable directly to the panel physician.

The costs of required vaccinations must also be born by the applicant. In adoption cases where the child is 10 years of age or younger, the adoptive parent(s) may execute an affidavit requesting waiver of the vaccination requirements and stating that the parent(s) ensures the child will receive the required vaccinations within 30 days of the child's admission to the U.S. or when medically appropriate. This affidavit should be submitted to the embassy physician performing the medical exam and should be attached to the medical exam report.

U.S. Immigrant Visa Fees:

The fee for the immigrant visa application is $380 for the visa issuance for each child. If not previously paid in the U.S., these fees may be paid by credit card or in cash in either U.S. dollars or Guatemalan quetzals (the local currency). The fees do not include the cost of the medical examination, DNA test, documents, or the petition. The Embassy cannot accept personal checks, cashier checks or traveler's checks but will accept the following credit/debit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, Diners, MasterCard Debit and Visa Debit.

Additional Information:

Specific questions about your Guatemalan adoption at the Embassy may be addressed by fax, or e-mail to the Immigrant Visa Unit of the Consular Section or to ICE. Please refer to page 1 for division of responsibilities between the two offices.

The Immigrant Visa Unit of the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy may be reached by: Email: [email protected]; Fax at: 011-502-2331-0564. Mail at: Immigrant Visas/Adoption Unit; U.S. Embassy Guatemala; Unit 3308; APO, AA 34024.

The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Department of Homeland Security may be reached by: Email at: [email protected]; Fax at: 011-502-2331-4342. Mail at: DHS/ICE U.S. Embassy Guatemala; Unit 3334; APO, AA 34024.

The U.S. Embassy is located at 7-01 Avenida de la Reforma, Zone 10, Guatemala City.

General Questions Regarding International Adoptions:

You may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, SA-29, 4th Floor, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520, telephone 1-888-407-4747 with specific questions.

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Guatemala

Guatemala

1 Location and Size

2 Topography

3 Climate

4 Plants and Animals

5 Environment

6 Population

7 Migration

8 Ethnic Groups

9 Languages

10 Religions

11 Transportation

12 History

13 Government

14 Political Parties

15 Judicial System

16 Armed Forces

17 Economy

18 Income

19 Industry

20 Labor

21 Agriculture

22 Domesticated Animals

23 Fishing

24 Forestry

25 Mining

26 Foreign Trade

27 Energy and Power

28 Social Development

29 Health

30 Housing

31 Education

32 Media

33 Tourism and Recreation

34 Famous Guatemalans

35 Bibliography

Republic of Guatemala
República de Guatemala

CAPITAL: Guatemala City

FLAG: The national flag consists of a white vertical stripe between two blue vertical stripes with the coat of arms centered in the white band.

ANTHEM: Himno Nacional, beginning “Guatemala feliz” (“Happy Guatemala”).

MONETARY UNIT: The quetzal (q) is a paper currency of 100 centavos. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, and 25 centavos, and notes of 50 centavos and 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 quetzales. q1 = $0.13072 (or $1 = q7.65) as of 2005. U.S. notes are widely accepted.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard, but some imperial and old Spanish units also are used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year’s Day, 1 January; Epiphany, 6 January; Labor Day, 1 May; Anniversary of the Revolution of 1871, 30 June; Independence Day, 15 September; Columbus Day, 12 October; Revolution Day, 20 October; All Saints’ Day, 1 November; Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.

TIME: 6 am = noon GMT.

1 Location and Size

Located in Central America, Guatemala has an area of 108,890 square kilometers (42,042 square miles), slightly smaller than the state of Tennessee. It shares borders with Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico, and has a total land boundary length of 1,687 kilometers (1,048 miles). The coastline (Pacific Ocean) is 400 kilometers (250 miles).

Guatemala’s capital city, Guatemala City, is located in the south central part of the country.

2 Topography

A tropical plain parallels the Pacific Ocean. From it, a piedmont region rises to altitudes of about 90 to 1,370 meters (300 to 4,500 feet). Above this region is an area stretching northwest and southwest, and containing volcanic mountains, the highest of which is Tajumulco at 4,211 meters (13,815 feet). This is also the highest peak in the country. To the north of the volcanic belt lie the continental divide and, still farther north,

GEOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Geographic Features

Area: 108,890 sq km (42,042 sq mi)

Size ranking: 104 of 194

Highest elevation: 4,211 meters (13,815 feet) at Tajumulco Volcano

Lowest elevation: Sea level at the Pacific Ocean

Land Use*

Arable land: 13%

Permanent crops: 6%

Other: 81%

Weather**

Average annual precipitation: 128.1 centimeters (50.4 inches)

Average temperature in January: 16.3°c (61.3°f)

Average temperature in July: 18.5°c (65.3°f)

* Arable Land: Land used for temporary crops, like meadows for mowing or pasture, gardens, and greenhouses.

Permanent crops: Land cultivated with crops that occupy its use for long periods, such as cocoa, coffee, rubber, fruit and nut orchards, and vineyards.

Other: Any land not specified, including built-on areas, roads, and barren land.

** The measurements for precipitation and average temperatures were taken at weather stations closest to the country’s largest city.

Precipitation and average temperature can vary significantly within a country, due to factors such as latitude, altitude, coastal proximity, and wind patterns.

the Atlantic lowlands. The lowest point is at sea level (Pacific Ocean).

Three deep river valleys, the Motagua, the Polochic, and the Sarstún, form the Caribbean lowlands and banana plantation area. North of it, occupying part of the peninsula of Yucatán, is the lowland forest of Petén, once the home of the Mayas.

The largest lakes are Izabal (with an area of 817 square kilometers/324 square miles), Petén Itza, and Atitlán. The longest river is the Usumacinta, with a length of 1,110 kilometers (690 miles).

3 Climate

Because of its consistently temperate climate, Guatemala has been called the “Land of Eternal Spring.” The average annual temperature ranges from 25 to 30°c (77 to 86°f) on the coast to 15°c (59°f) in the higher mountains. The rainy season extends from May to October inland and from May to December along the coast. Hurricanes are a natural hazard.

4 Plants and Animals

Flowers of the temperate zone are found in great numbers. Of special interest is the orchid family, which includes the white nun (monja blanca,) the national flower. There is also an abundance of medicinal, industrial, and fibrous plants.

Native animals include the armadillo, bear, coyote, deer, fox, jaguar, monkey, puma, tapir, and manatee. The national bird is the highland quetzal, the symbol of love of liberty, which reputedly dies in captivity. Lake Atitlán is the only place in the world where a rare flightless waterbird, the Atitlán (giant pied-billed) grebe, is found. The grebe, classified as endangered, has been protected by law since 1970. There are more than 900 other species of native birds, as well as migratory varieties. Reptiles, present in more than 204 species, include the bushmaster, fer-de-lance, water moccasin, and iguana.

5 Environment

Guatemala’s main environmental problems are deforestation and soil erosion. The nation’s water supply is at risk due to industrial and agricultural toxins. United Nations sources show that environmental contamination is responsible for a significant number of deaths due to respiratory and digestive illnesses. Despite the establishment in 1975 of a ministerial commission charged with conserving and improving the human environment, coordination of antipollution efforts remains inadequate, and Guatemala still suffers from a lack of financial resources and welltrained personnel to implement environmental control programs.

In 2003, 20% of Guatemala’s total land area was protected. Tikal National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there are four Ramsar wetland sites. In 2006, threatened species included 7 types of mammals, 10 species of birds, 10 types of reptiles, 14 species of fish, and 85 species of plants. Endangered or extinct species in Guatemala include the horned guan, Eskimo curlew, California least tern, green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle, olive ridley turtle, spectacled caiman, American crocodile, and Morelet’s crocodile.

6 Population

The total population was estimated at 12.7 million in 2005. Population density was 113 per square kilometer (292 per square mile). The projected population for 2025 is 19.9 million. The capital and largest city, Guatemala City, had a 2005 estimated population of 951,000.

7 Migration

Because of persecution and civil war, Amerindians began emigrating across the Mexican border in 1981. Under the International Conference on Central American Refugees, 18,000 Guatemalans returned during 1989 to 1994. An additional 9,500 returned in 1995 and 3,974 in 1996. The total number of migrants in the country in 2000 was 43,000. In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated at 1.63 migrants per 1,000 population.

8 Ethnic Groups

Guatemala has a larger percentage of Amerindians in its total population than any other country in Central America. In 2004, persons of mixed Amerindian and Spanish ancestry, called mestizos, constituted about 59.4% of the national total. Amerindians who have become assimilated and no longer practice the traditional Amerindian lifestyle are also called ladinos. This term is sometimes used to refer to mestizos. There are at least 22 separate Mayan groups, each with its own language. The white population is estimated at less than 1% of the total.

9 Languages

Spanish, spoken by about 60% of the population, is the official and commercial language. Amerindians speak some 28 dialects in 5 main language groups. Quiché, Mam, Pocomam, and Chol are all of the Mayan language family. Amerindian languages are spoken by about 40% of the population.

10 Religions

Historically, Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion (between 50% and 60%). Many inhabitants combine Catholic beliefs with traditional Mayan rites. There is no official religion, but the constitution recognizes the Catholic Church as a distinct legal personality.

Protestants account for about 40% of the population. The largest Protestant denominations are the Full Gospel Church, the Assembly

of God, the Church of God of the Central American Church, and the Prince of Peace Church. Other denominations represented are Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Minority groups and religions with small communities include Jews, Muslims, and followers of the Indian spiritual leader Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

Freedom of religion is protected by the constitution.

11 Transportation

In 2002, the total length of Guatemala’s road system was estimated at 13,856 kilometers (8,610 miles), of which 4,370 kilometers (2,715 miles) were paved, including 140 kilometers (87 miles) of expressways. In 2003, there were approximately 127,800 passenger cars and 145,900 commercial vehicles registered. Guatemala Railways operates 90% of the 884 kilometers (549 miles) of narrow-gauge railway.

Puerto Barrios and Livingston on the Caribbean coast are Guatemala’s chief ports; the Pacific coast ports are Champerico and San José. In 2002, Guatemala had no registered cargo ships. Aurora Airport at Guatemala City, the first air terminal in Central America, serves aircraft of all sizes, including jumbo jets. In 2004, there were an estimated 452 airports, but only 11 had paved runways as of 2005.

BIOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Name: Oscar Berger Perdomo

Position: President of a constitutional democratic republic

Took Office: 14 January 2004

Birthplace: Guatemala City

Birthdate: 11 August 1946

Religion: Catholic

Education: Berger was trained as a lawyer

Spouse: Wendy Widmann de Berger

Of interest: Nicknamed “The Rabbit,” Berger was mayor of Guatemala City from 1992–2000.

12 History

The classical Mayan civilization, which began about ad 300, featured highly developed arts and sciences and extensive trade. It collapsed around ad 900 and disintegrated into a number of separate groups. Despite the Amerindians’ resistance, they were conquered by the Spanish in 1523–24.

From 1524 until 1821, Guatemala was the center of government for a captaincy-general which extended from Yucatán peninsula to Panama. Spanish political and social institutions were added to Amerindian village life and customs, producing a hybrid culture.

In 1821, the captaincy-general won its independence from Spain and, along with present-day Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, formed the United Provinces of Central America in 1824, which lasted until 1838–39. Guatemala proclaimed its independence in 1839.

In the 1950s the government of president Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán took over the holdings of the United Fruit Company, a United States firm, as part of a land reform program. In the summer of 1954, Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas and an army of Guatemalan exiles, backed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States, invaded Guatemala from Honduras and toppled the government. Castillo took over, restored the U.S. properties, and ruled by decree until 1957. General Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes, who became president in 1958, allowed Guatemala to be used as a training area for Cuban exiles in the abortive United States’ invasion of the Bay of Pigs in April 1961.

Dr. Julio César Méndez Montenegro, elected in 1966, was the first civilian president since Árbenz and the last for twenty years. After several years of violence between the army and left-wing guerrilla forces, Guatemala returned to military rule with the election of Colonel Carlos Arana Osorio as president in 1970. Political violence by the military, the left, and right-wing death squads continued for more than twenty years, with a succession of governments unable to contain it. In 1993 the military intervened, and Ramior de León Carpio was appointed president on 5 June. De León, a human rights advocate, promised to bring to justice those responsible for the dismal state of human rights in Guatemala.

On 29 December 1996, under the government of Alvaro Arzu, the Guatemalan government signed a peace accord with the guerrilla Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity. The agreement marked the end of Central America’s longest-running guerrilla war. Alfonso Portillo Cabrera was elected president in 2000.

Parliamentary and presidential elections were held on 9 November 2003. Oscar Berger Perdomo, the former mayor of Guatemala City, came in first with 38.8% of the vote, but because none of the candidates received a required 50% majority, a run-off election was held on 28 December 2003; Berger received about 54% of the vote and was sworn in as president in January 2004.

13 Government

Guatemala is a republic. The president is elected by direct vote for a five-year term and may not be reelected. The National Congress has 113 members, who serve 4-year terms. Guatemala is divided into 22 departments, plus Guatemala City, each with a governor appointed by the president. Municipalities are governed by mayors and elected councils. Literate men and women 18 years of age and older are obligated to vote.

14 Political Parties

The main political parties in 1999 were the conservative Guatemalan Republican Front (Frente Republicano Guatemalteco or FRG) and the National Advancement Party (Partido de Avanzada Nacional or PAN). In the November 2003 elections, the Grand National Alliance (GANA) won a majority of seats in congress, with other seats held by the FRG, National Unity for Hope (UNE), and PAN. In the November and December 2003 presidential elections, Oscar Berger Perdomo of the Grand National Alliance won both the first and second rounds of voting to become president.

15 Judicial System

The court system includes the nine-member Supreme Court, 10 courts of appeals, 33 civil courts of first instance, and 10 penal courts. There is also a Constitutional Court. As of July 1994, a new criminal code gave more emphasis to due process protection. The judiciary has been accused of corruption and inefficiency.

Yearly Growth Rate

This economic indicator tells by what percent the economy has increased or decreased when compared with the previous year.

16 Armed Forces

In 2005, the armed forces numbered 27,200 active personnel in the army, 1,500 in the navy, and 700 in the air force. Defense expenditures amounted to $101 million in 2005.

17 Economy

After the Spanish conquest in the 1500s, the economy of Guatemala usually depended on the export of one or two agricultural products. Since 1980, however, the economy has shifted so that services and general commerce have become the largest sectors of the economy. At the turn of the 21st century, the chief exports were coffee, sugar, and bananas. The government also has encouraged light industrial production (such as tires, clothing, and pharmaceuticals). From 1991 to 1995, the Guatemalan economy—the largest in Central America—grew at a healthy pace of about 3.5% to 5% per year. In 2001–05, the real growth rate of the gross domestic product (GDP) was between 2–3%.

18 Income

In 2005, Guatemala’s gross domestic product (GDP) was $62.8 billion, or about $4,300 per person. Growth rate of GDP was estimated at 3.2%. The average inflation rate in 2002 was 9.1%.

19 Industry

In 2004, industry represented about 19% of the domestic economy. Most manufacturing is devoted to light assembly and food processing operations. Products include beverages, clothing and textiles, sugar, soap, and pharmaceuticals. Heavy industry included a small steel mill located in Escuintla and an oil refinery that had a capacity of 16,000 barrels per day. Foreign-owned factories that import materials for assembly and export finished products for profit are called maquilas. In 2004, there were about 222 maquila plants in the country with 113,200 workers.

20 Labor

In 2005, the Guatemalan labor force was estimated at 3.76 million. As of 2002 it was divided among the following sectors: agriculture, 38.7%; industry, 20%; and services, 37.5%. The remainder were employed in other occupations. As of 2003, the unemployment rate stood at 7.5%. In 2002, about 2% of the workforce were union members.

The minimum legal age to work is 14 years, but child labor remains a huge problem particularly in agriculture and in the informal economy. Hazardous conditions for child laborers are common, especially in the fireworks industry. The minimum wage as of 2002 was $3.57 per eight-hour day for industrial workers and $3.24 per day for agricultural workers. The workweek is 44 hours, but many laborers work more hours per week.

21 Agriculture

As of 2003, about 13% of the total land area of Guatemala was used for the production of annual or perennial crops. Agriculture contributes about 23% to gross domestic product (GDP), makes up about 48% of export earnings, and employs 38.7% of the labor force. The principal cash crops are coffee, sugar, corn, bananas, and cotton. Cash crop output in 2004 included 18 million tons of sugarcane, 216,000 tons of coffee, 1,000 tons of cotton, and 1 million tons of bananas.

Production of crops for domestic consumption included 1 million tons of corn and 97,000 tons of dry beans, along with rice, wheat, and fruits and vegetables. New agricultural products for export include melon, papaya, mango, pineapple, broccoli, okra, snow peas, and ornamental plants.

22 Domesticated Animals

Consumption of dairy products and meat is low, despite improvements in livestock raising and dairying. The wool industry in the western highlands supplies the famed Guatemalan weavers. Hog and poultry production is ample for domestic consumption. In 2005, there were over 2.5 million head of cattle, 212,000 hogs, 260,000 sheep, 124,000 horses, and 27 million chickens. Guatemala exports poultry, with 155,000 tons of poultry meat and 82,500 tons of eggs produced in 2005.

Components of the Economy

This pie chart shows how much of the country’s economy is devoted to agriculture (including forestry, hunting, and fishing), industry, or services.

23 Fishing

Guatemalan waters are rich in fish, including shrimp, snapper, and tuna. The total catch in 2003 was 30,480 tons (up from 6,513 tons in 1991), about 32% of which came from inland waters.

24 Forestry

Forests are among Guatemala’s richest natural resources. In 2000, forest covered about 26% of the total land area. The forests in the Petén region yield cabinet woods, timber, extracts, oils, gums, and dyes. Mahogany, cedar, and balsam are important export products. Chicle for chewing gum is another important commodity. In 2004, about 16.4 million cubic meters (579 million cubic feet) of roundwood (unsawed timber as in poles) were produced, with 97% burned for

fuel. Sawn wood production was 366,000 cubic meters (12.9 million cubic feet) that year.

25 Mining

The principal commercial minerals are gold, iron ore, and lead. Gold production was at about 4,550 kilograms (10,031 pounds) in 2003. Rough marble, which ranged in color from white to green, was exported to Mexico and other nearby countries. Nickel deposits have been found at Marichaj and Sechol.

Yearly Balance of Trade

The balance of trade is the difference between what a country sells to other countries (its exports) and what it buys (its imports). If a country imports more than it exports, it has a negative balance of trade (a trade deficit). If exports exceed imports there is a positive balance of trade (a trade surplus).

26 Foreign Trade

Main export items include coffee, sugar, bananas, and oil. Other exports include medicinal and pharmaceutical products, vegetables, and cardamom (a spice). Primary imports are fuels, industrial machinery, motor vehicles, construction materials, grain, and fertilizers. Guatemala’s leading trading partners are the United States, followed by El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico. Guatemala signed the Dominican Republic–Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR–CAFTA) in 2005. The other countries that are part of this trade agreement are the United States, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Selected Social Indicators

The statistics below are the most recent estimates available as of 2006. For comparison purposes, data for the United States and averages for low-income countries and high-income countries are also given. About 15% of the world’s 6.5 billion people live in high-income countries, while 37% live in low-income countries.

IndicatorGuatemala Low-income countriesHigh-income countriesUnited States
sources: World Bank. World Development Indicators. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2006; Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2006; World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.
Per capita gross national income (GNI)*$4,260 $2,258$31,009$39,820
Population growth rate2.3% 2%0.8%1.2%
People per square kilometer of land113 803032
Life expectancy in years: male64 587675
female71 608280
Number of physicians per 1,000 people0.9 0.43.72.3
Number of pupils per teacher (primary school)31 431615
Literacy rate (15 years and older)69.1% 65%>95%99%
Television sets per 1,000 people145 84735938
Internet users per 1,000 people60 28538630
Energy consumed per capita (kg of oil equivalent)608 5015,4107,843
CO2 emissions per capita (metric tons)0.94 0.8512.9719.92
* The GNI is the total of all goods and services produced by the residents of a country in a year. The per capita GNI is calculated by dividing a country’s GNI by its population and adjusting for relative purchasing power.
n.a.: data not available >: greater than <: less than

27 Energy and Power

Guatemala is the largest producer and consumer of electricity in Central America. In 2002, total electricity production reached 6.8 billion kilowatt hours. Guatemala is the only oil production country in Central America. Guatemala’s main petroleum resources lie in the north and around the Gulf of Honduras, where much exploration has taken place. Production averaged 19,800 barrels per day in 2004, of which almost all of it was exported to the United States. Guatemala has small natural gas reserves (1.5 billion cubic meters/52.9 billion cubic feet in 2002), but no production.

28 Social Development

Social security provides maternity benefits, general medical insurance, and pensions for the disabled, aged, widows, and minors. Despite legal equality, women are paid significantly less than their male counterparts. Women can be charged with adultery, while men can only be charged with a lesser crime.

29 Health

Health coverage in Guatemala has been estimated to be low, with more than 40% of the population receiving no access to health care services. As of 2004, there were an estimated 0.9 physicians, 44 nurses, and 18 dentists per 1,000 people. Among the chief causes of death are heart disease, intestinal parasites, bronchitis, influenza, and tuberculosis. Malnutrition, alcoholism, and inadequate sanitation and housing also pose serious health problems.

It is estimated that the poorest half of the population gets only 60% of the minimum daily caloric requirements. Some steps have been taken to fortify foods with daily vitamin requirements. Sugar has been fortified with vitamin A and wheat flour will be fortified with iron.

In 2005, the infant mortality rate was 32 per 1,000 live births. The average life expectancy was 69 years. As of 2004, the number of people living with human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) was estimated at 78,000. There were about 5,800 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

In 2002, there were about 2,438,458 housing units in the country. Many of the nation’s urban housing units and most of its rural dwellings are poorly built and lack electricity and drinkable water. As of 1995 there were about 205 “squatter” settlements inhabited by homeless or displaced persons. In these settlements, shelters are made of wood, cardboard, or mud, with zinc sheet roofs.

31 Education

Elementary education is free and compulsory for nine years, although enforcement is lax in rural areas. In 2003, an estimated 87% of age-eligible students were enrolled in primary school. The same year, about 30% of all age-eligible students were enrolled in secondary school. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was 31 to 1 and the ratio at the secondary level was 14 to 1.

Among Guatemala’s six main universities, the Universidad de San Carlos, in Guatemala City, is the most important center of higher learning. The others include Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Universidad Francisco Marroquin, Universidad Mariano Galvez, Universidad Rafael Landivar, and Universidad Rural. In 2003, about 9% of the adult population was enrolled in some type of higher education program. As of 2004, the adult literacy rate was estimated at 69.1%.

32 Media

In 2003, there were an estimated 71 mainline phones and 131 mobile phones for every 1,000 people.

As of 2000, there were 130 AM and 487 FM radio stations. In 2001 there were 4 television stations, all owned by one person. In 2003, there about 79 radios and 145 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 14.4 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 60 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.

There were three daily newspapers in 2004, all published in Guatemala City. The largest, Prensa Libre, had a 2004 circulation of 110,000.

The constitution provides for free speech and a free press, but journalists admit that, in certain cases, fear of reprisals or government pressure leads to self-censorship.

33 Tourism and Recreation

In 2003, about 880,223 foreign visitors entered the country. In 2002, there were about 17,519 hotel rooms with 44,579 beds and an occupancy rate of 47%. Guatemala’s main tourist attractions are Mayan ruins, such as Tikal; colonial churches in Guatemala City, Antigua Guatemala, and other towns and villages; and the colorful markets and fiestas.

34 Famous Guatemalans

The Rusticatio Mexicana, by Rafael Landívar (1731–1793), represents the height of colonial Guatemalan poetry. Outstanding figures of the romantic period were José Batres y Montúfar (1809–1844), the author of Tradiciones de Guatemala and many poetical works, and José Milla y Vidaurre (1822–1882), a historian and novelist and the creator of the national peasant prototype, Juan Chapin. Justo Rufino Barrios (1835–1885) became a national hero for his liberal, far-reaching reforms between 1871 and 1885. Enrique Gómez Carillo (1873–1927), a novelist and essayist, was perhaps better known to non-Spanish readers during his lifetime than any other Guatemalan author. The novelist and diplomat Miguel Ángel Asturias (1899–1974) was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1967.

Mario Cardinal Casariego (b. Spain, 1909–1983) became the first Central American cardinal in 1969. Among the better-known Guatemalan political personalities of the 20th century are Colonel Jácobo Árbenz Guzmán (1913–1971), president during 1951–54, and General Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes (1896–1982), president during 1958–63. Rigoberta Menchú (1959–) won the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign against human rights violations and for the rights of indigenous peoples.

35 Bibliography

BOOKS

Dendinger, Roger. Guatemala. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.

Mann, Elizabeth. Tikal. New York: Mikaya Press, 2002.

Schemenauer, Elma. Guatemala. Chanhassen, MN: Child’s World, 1999.

Sexton, James D. Campesino: The Diary of a Guatemalan Indian. Tempe: University of Arizona Press, 1985.

Sheehan, Sean. Guatemala. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1998.

Shields, Charles J. Guatemala. Philadelphia: Mason Crest Publishers, 2003.

WEB SITES

Country Pages. www.state.gov/p/wha/ci/gt/. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

Government Home Page. www.congreso.gob.gt. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

World Heritage List. whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/gt. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

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Guatemala

Guatemala

Compiled from the October 2006 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Guatemala

PROFILE

PEOPLE

HISTORY

GOVERNMENT

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

ECONOMY

NATIONAL SECURITY

FOREIGN RELATIONS

U.S.-GUATEMALAN RELATIONS

TRAVEL

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 108,890 sq. km. (42,042 sq. mi.); about the size of Tennessee.

Cities: Capital —Guatemala City (metro area pop. 2.5 million).Other major cities —Quetzaltenango, Escuintla.

Terrain: Mountainous, with fertile coastal plain.

Climate: Temperate in highlands; tropical on coasts.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective —Guatemalan(s).

Population: (2006 est.) 12.3 million.

Annual population growth rate: (2006 est.) 2.27%.

Ethnic groups: Mestizo (mixed Spanish-Indian), indigenous.

Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, traditional Mayan.

Languages: Spanish, 24 indigenous languages (principally Kiche, Kaqchikel, Q’eqchi, and Mam).

Education: Years compulsory —6. Attendance —41%. Literacy—70.6%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—36.9/1,000. Life expectancy —65.19 yrs.

Work force: Services —40%; industry and commerce —37%; agriculture —15%; construction, mining, utilities —4%. Fifty percent of the population engages in some form of agriculture, often at the subsistence level outside the monetized economy.

Government

Type: Constitutional democratic republic.

Constitution: May 1985; amended November 1993.

Independence: September 15, 1821.

Government branches: Executive —president (4-year term). Legislative —unicameral 158-member Congress (4-year term). Judicial —13-member Supreme Court of Justice (5-year term).

Political subdivisions: 22 departments (appointed governors); 331 municipalities with elected mayors and city councils.

Political parties: Gran Alianza Nacional (GANA—a coalition of three parties), Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG), National Advancement Party (PAN), National Union for Hope (UNE), New Nation Alliance (ANN), Unionists (Unionistas), Patriot Party (PP)

Suffrage: Universal for adults 18 and over who are not serving on active duty with the armed forces or police. A variety of procedural obstacles have historically reduced participation by poor, rural, and indigenous people.

Economy

GDP: (2005 est.) $26.98 billion.

Annual growth rate: (2005 est.) 3.2%.

Per capita GDP: (2005 est.) $2,200.

Natural resources: Oil, timber, nickel.

Agriculture: (23% of GDP) Products —coffee, sugar, bananas, cardamom, vegetables, flowers and plants, timber, rice, rubber.

Manufacturing: (18% of GDP) Types —prepared food, clothing and textiles, construction materials, tires, pharmaceuticals.

Trade: (2005 est.) Exports —$3.94 billion: coffee, bananas, sugar, crude oil, chemical products, clothing and textiles, vegetables. Major markets —U.S. 28.9%, Central American Common Market (CACM) 42.4%, Mexico 4.8%. Imports —$7.75 billion: machinery and equipment, fuels, mineral products, chemical products, vehicles and transport materials, plastic materials and products. Major suppliers —U.S. 39.6%, CACM 12.3%, Mexico 8.3%, Japan 3.8%, Germany 2.4%.

PEOPLE

More than half of Guatemalans are descendants of indigenous Mayan peoples. Westernized Mayans and mestizos (mixed European and indigenous ancestry) are known as Ladinos. Most of Guatemala’s population is rural, though urbanization is accelerating. The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism, into which many indigenous Guatemalans have incorporated traditional forms of worship. Protestantism and traditional Mayan religions are practiced by an estimated 40% and 1% of the population, respectively. Though the official language is Spanish, it is not universally understood among the indigenous population. The peace accords signed in December 1996 provide for the translation of some official documents and voting materials into several indigenous languages.

HISTORY

The Mayan civilization flourished throughout much of Guatemala and the surrounding region long before the Spanish arrived, but it was already in decline when the Mayans were defeated by Pedro de Alvarado in 1523-24. The first colonial capital, Ciudad Vieja, was ruined by floods and an earthquake in 1542. Survivors founded Antigua, the second capital, in 1543. Antigua was destroyed by two earthquakes in 1773. The remnants of its Spanish colonial architecture have been preserved as a national monument. The third capital, Guatemala City, was founded in 1776.

Guatemala gained independence from Spain on September 15, 1821; it briefly became part of the Mexican Empire, and then for a period belonged to a federation called the United Provinces of Central America. From the mid-19th century until the mid-1980s, the country passed through a series of dictatorships, insurgencies (particularly beginning in the 1960s), coups, and stretches of military rule with only occasional periods of representative government.

1944 to 1986

In 1944, Gen. Jorge Ubico’s dictatorship was overthrown by the “October Revolutionaries,” a group of dissident military officers, students, and liberal professionals. A civilian President, Juan Jose Arevalo, was elected in 1945 and held the presidency until 1951. Social reforms initiated by Arevalo were continued by his successor, Col. Jacobo Arbenz. Arbenz permitted the communist Guatemalan Labor Party to gain legal status in 1952. The army refused to defend the Arbenz government when a U.S.-backed group led by Col. Carlos Castillo Armas invaded the country from Honduras in 1954 and quickly took over the government. Gen. Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes took power in 1958 following the murder of Colonel Castillo Armas.

In response to the increasingly autocratic rule of Ydigoras Fuentes, a group of junior military officers revolted in 1960. When they failed, several went into hiding and established close ties with Cuba. This group became the nucleus of the forces that were in armed insurrection against the government for the next 36 years. Four principal left-wing guerrilla groups—the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP), the Revolutionary Organization of Armed People (ORPA), the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR), and the Guatemalan Labor Party (PGT)—conducted economic sabotage and targeted government installations and members of government security forces in armed attacks. These organizations combined to form the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) in 1982.

Shortly after President Julio Cesar Mendez Montenegro took office in 1966, the army launched a major counterinsurgency campaign that largely broke up the guerrilla movement in the countryside. The guerrillas then concentrated their attacks in Guatemala City, where they assassinated many leading figures, including U.S. Ambassador John Gordon Mein in 1968. Between 1966 and 1982, there was a series of military or military-dominated governments.

On March 23, 1982, army troops commanded by junior officers staged a coup to prevent the assumption of power by Gen. Angel Anibal Guevara, the hand-picked candidate of outgoing President and Gen. Romeo Lucas Garcia. They denounced Guevara’s electoral victory as fraudulent. The coup leaders asked retired Gen. Efrain Rios Montt to negotiate the departure of Lucas and Guevara.

Rios Montt was at this time a lay pastor in the evangelical protestant “Church of the Word.” He formed a three-member military junta that annulled the 1965 constitution, dissolved Congress, suspended political parties, and canceled the electoral law. After a few months, Rios Montt dismissed his junta colleagues and assumed the de facto title of “President of the Republic.”

Guerrilla forces and their leftist allies denounced Rios Montt. Rios Montt sought to defeat the guerrillas with military actions and economic reforms; in his words, “rifles and beans.” The government began to form local civilian defense patrols (PACs). Participation was in theory voluntary, but in reality, many Guatemalans, especially in the heavily indigenous northwest, had no choice but to join either the PACs or the guerrillas. Rios Montt’s conscript army and PACs recaptured essentially all guerrilla territory—guerrilla activity lessened and was largely limited to hit-and-run operations. However, Rios Montt won this partial victory at an enormous cost in civilian deaths, in what was probably the most violent period of the 36-year internal conflict, resulting in about 200,000 deaths of mostly unarmed indigenous civilians.

On August 8, 1983, Rios Montt was deposed by his own Minister of Defense, Gen. Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores, who succeeded him as de facto President of Guatemala. Rios Montt survived to found a political party (the Guatemalan Republic Front) and to be elected President of Congress in 1995 and 2000. Awareness in the United States of the conflict in Guatemala, and its ethnic dimension, increased with the 1983 publication of the book I, Rigoberta Menchu, An Indian Woman in Guatemala.

General Mejia allowed a managed return to democracy in Guatemala, starting with a July 1, 1984 election for a Constituent Assembly to draft a democratic constitution. On May 30, 1985, after 9 months of debate, the Constituent Assembly finished drafting a new constitution, which took effect immediately. Vinicio Cerezo, a civilian politician and the presidential candidate of the Christian Democracy Party, won the first election held under the new constitution with almost 70% of the vote, and took office on January 14, 1986.

1986 to 2003

Upon its inauguration in January 1986, President Cerezo’s civilian government announced that its top priorities would be to end the political violence and establish the rule of law. Reforms included new laws of habeas corpus and amparo (court-ordered protection), the creation of a legislative human rights committee, and the establishment in 1987 of the Office of Human Rights Ombudsman. Cerezo survived coup attempts in 1988 and 1989, and the final 2 years of Cerezo’s government were also marked by a failing economy, strikes, protest marches, and allegations of widespread corruption.

Presidential and congressional elections were held on November 11, 1990. After a runoff ballot, Jorge Serrano was inaugurated on January 14, 1991, thus completing the first transition from one democratically elected civilian government to another.

The Serrano administration’s record was mixed. It had some success in consolidating civilian control over the army, replacing a number of senior officers and persuading the military to participate in peace talks with the URNG. Serrano took the politically unpopular step of recognizing the sovereignty of Belize. The Serrano government reversed the economic slide it inherited, reducing inflation and boosting real growth.

On May 25, 1993, Serrano illegally dissolved Congress and the Supreme Court and tried to restrict civil freedoms, allegedly to fight corruption. The “autogolpe” (or self-initiated coup) failed due to unified, strong protests by most elements of Guatemalan society, international pressure, and the army’s enforcement of the decisions of the Court of Constitutionality, which ruled against the attempted takeover. Serrano fled the country.

On June 5, 1993, the Congress, pursuant to the 1985 constitution, elected the Human Rights Ombudsman, Ramiro De Leon Carpio, to complete Serrano’s presidential term. De Leon, not a member of any political party and lacking a political base but with strong popular support, launched an ambitious anticorruption campaign to “purify” Congress and the Supreme Court, demanding the resignations of all members of the two bodies.

Despite considerable congressional resistance, presidential and popular pressure led to a November 1993 agreement brokered by the Catholic Church between the administration and Congress. This package of constitutional reforms was approved by popular referendum on January 30, 1994. In August 1994, a new Congress was elected to complete the unexpired term.

Under De Leon, the peace process, now brokered by the United Nations, took on new life. The government and the URNG signed agreements on human rights (March 1994), resettlement of displaced persons (June 1994), historical clarification (June 1994), and indigenous rights (March 1995). They also made significant progress on a socioeconomic and agrarian agreement. National elections for president, the Congress, and municipal offices were held in November 1995. With almost 20 parties competing in the first round, the presidential election came down to a January 7, 1996 runoff in which National Advancement Party (PAN) candidate Alvaro Arzu defeated Alfonso Portillo of the Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG) by just over 2% of the vote. Under the Arzu administration, peace negotiations were concluded, and the government signed peace accords ending the 36-year internal conflict in December 1996. The human rights situation also improved during Arzu’s tenure, and steps were taken to reduce the influence of the military in national affairs.

In a December 1999 presidential runoff, Alfonso Portillo (FRG) won 68% of the vote to 32% for Oscar Berger (PAN). Portillo’s impressive electoral triumph, with two-thirds of the vote in the second round, gave him a claim to a mandate from the people to carry out his reform program.

Progress in carrying out Portillo’s reform agenda was slow at best, with the notable exception of a series of reforms sponsored by the World Bank to modernize bank regulation and criminalize money laundering. The United States determined in April 2003 that Guatemala had failed to demonstrably adhere to its international counternarcotics commitments during the previous year.

A high crime rate and a serious and worsening public corruption problem were cause for concern for the Government of Guatemala. These problems, in addition to issues related to the often violent harassment and intimidation by unknown assailants of human rights activists, judicial workers, journalists, and witnesses in human rights trials, led the government to begin serious attempts in 2001 to open a national dialogue to discuss the considerable challenges facing the country.

National elections were held on November 9, 2003. Oscar Berger Perdomo of the Grand National Alliance (GANA) party won the election, receiving 54.1% of the vote. His opponent, Alvarado Colom Caballeros of the Nation Unity for Hope (UNE) party received 45.9% of the vote. The new government assumed office on January 14, 2004.

GOVERNMENT

Guatemala’s 1985 constitution provides for a separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The 1993 constitutional reforms included an increase in the number of Supreme Court justices from 9 to 13. The reforms reduced the terms of office for president, vice president, and congressional representatives from 5 years to 4 years, and for Supreme Court justices from 6 years to 5 years; they increased the terms of mayors and city councils from 2-1/2 years to 4 years.

The president and vice president are directly elected through universal suffrage and limited to one term. A vice president can run for president after 4 years out of office. Supreme Court justices are elected by the Congress from a list submitted by the bar association, law school deans, a university rector, and appellate judges. The Supreme Court and local courts handle civil and criminal cases. There also is a separate Constitutional Court.

Guatemala has 22 administrative subdivisions (departments) administered by governors appointed by the president. Guatemala City and 331 other municipalities are governed by popularly elected mayors or councils.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 12/29/2006

President: Oscar BERGER Perdomo

Vice President: Eduardo STEIN

Min. of Agriculture: Alvaro AGUILAR

Min. of Communication & Public Works: Eduardo CASTILLO

Min. of Culture & Sports: Manuel SALAZAR Tezaguic

Min. of Defense: Cecilio LEIVA Rodriguez, Maj. Gen.

Min. of Economy: Marcio CUEVAS Posadas

Min. of Education: Maria ACENA del Carmen

Min. of Energy & Mines: Luis Romero ORTIZ Pelaez

Min. of Environment & Natural Resources: Juan Mario DARY Fuentes

Min. of External Relations: Gert ROSENTHAL Koenigsberger

Min. of Finance: Hugo BETETA

Min. of Government: Carlos VIELMAN

Min. of Labor: Jorge GALLARDO

Min. of Public Health & Social Assistance: Victor Manuel GUITERREZ Longo

Attorney General: Juan Luis FLORIDO

Solicitor General: Luis Alfonso ROSALES

Sec. Gen. of the Presidency: Jorge Raul ARROYAVE Reyes

Pres., Bank of Guatemala: Lizardo SOSA Lopez

Ambassador to the US: Guillermo CASTILLO

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Jorge SKINNER-KLEE Arenales

The Guatemalan embassy is located at 2220 R Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-745-4952; email: [email protected]). Consulates are in Washington, New York, Miami, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Denver, and Los Angeles, and honorary consuls in Montgomery, San Diego, Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta, Leavenworth, Lafayette, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Juan, Providence, Memphis, San Antonio, and Seattle. See the State Department Web page: http://www.state.gov/s/cpr/rls/fco/

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Portillo’s 1999 landslide victory combined with an FRG majority in Congress suggested possibilities for rapid legislative action. However, under the Guatemalan constitution of 1985, passage of many kinds of legislation requires a two-thirds vote. Passage of such legislation was not possible, therefore, with FRG votes alone.

The government increased several tax rates in 2001 in an attempt to meet the target of increasing its tax burden (at about 10.7% of GDP, currently the lowest in the region) to 12% of GDP. However, protestors took to the streets massively when the government sought further increases in August 2001, declaring their opposition to any new taxes until the Portillo administration provided better accountability for the taxes it already received.

Common and violent crime, aggravated by a legacy of violence and vigilante justice, presents a serious challenge. Impunity remained a major problem, primarily because democratic institutions, including those responsible for the administration of justice, have developed only a limited capacity to cope with this legacy. Guatemala’s judiciary is independent; however, it suffers from inefficiency, corruption, and intimidation.

In early 2003, the government accepted the Human Rights Ombudsman’s proposal for a U.N.-led commission to investigate possible links between illegal clandestine groups or security forces and attacks on human rights defenders and organized crime. The initial UN agreement was ruled unconstitutional in 2004 before it was acted upon by the Congress. As of September 2006, the government and UN are in active discussion on a new agreement. The UN Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) ceased its 10-year project of monitoring peace accord implementation and human rights problems in November 2004 with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan declaring Guatemala had made “enormous progress in managing the country’s problems through dialogue and institutions.”

ECONOMY

After the signing of the final peace accord in December 1996, Guatemala was well-positioned for rapid economic growth over the next several years, until a financial crisis in 1998 disrupted the course of improvement. The subsequent collapse of coffee prices left what was once the country’s leading export sector in depression and had a severe impact on rural incomes. Foreign investment inflows have been weak, with the exception of the privatization of utilities. Potential investors, both foreign and domestic, cite corruption, lack of physical security, a climate of confrontation between the government and private sector, and unreliable mechanisms for contract enforcement as the principal barriers to new business. On a more positive note, Guatemala’s macroeconomic management was sound under the Portillo administration, and its foreign debt levels are modest. The country subscribed to a standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2002, which it extended in June 2003.

Guatemala’s economy is dominated by the private sector, which generates about 85% of GDP. Agriculture contributes 23% of GDP and accounts for 75% of exports. Most manufacturing is light assembly and food processing, geared to the domestic, U.S., and Central American markets. Over the past several years, tourism and exports of textiles, apparel, and nontraditional agricultural products such as winter vegetables, fruit, and cut flowers have boomed, while more traditional exports such as sugar, bananas, and coffee continue to represent a large share of the export market.

The United States is the country’s largest trading partner, providing 39.6% of Guatemala’s imports and receiving 28.9% of its exports. The government’s involvement is small, with its business activities limited to public utilities—some of which have been privatized—ports and airports, and several development-oriented financial institutions.

Guatemala ratified the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement, commonly known as CAFTA, on March 10, 2005 and the agreement entered into force between Guatemala and the U.S. on July 1, 2006. CAFTA eliminates customs tariffs on as many categories of goods as possible; opens services sectors; and creates clear and readily enforceable rules in areas such as investment, government procurement, intellectual property protection, customs procedures, electronic commerce, the use of sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures to protect public health, and resolution of business disputes.

Other priorities include increasing transparency and accountability in Guatemala’s public finances, broadening the tax base, and completing implementation of financial sector reforms. These measures attempt to ensure that Guatemala can comply with the standards of the international Financial Action Task Force for detecting and preventing money laundering.

The United States, along with other donor countries—especially France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Japan —and the international financial institutions, have increased development project financing since the signing of the peace accords. However, donor support remains contingent upon Guatemalan Government reforms and counterpart financing.

The distribution of income and wealth remains highly skewed. The wealthiest 10% of the population receives almost one-half of all income; the top 20% receives two-thirds of all income. As a result, about 80% of the population lives in poverty, and two-thirds of that number—or 7.6 million people—live in extreme poverty. Guatemala’s social development indicators, such as infant mortality and illiteracy, are among the worst in the hemisphere. Chronic malnutrition among the rural poor worsened with the onset of the crisis in coffee prices, and the United States has provided disaster assistance and food aid in response.

NATIONAL SECURITY

Guatemala is a signatory to the Rio Pact and is a member of the Central American Defense Council (CONDECA). The president is commander in chief. The Defense Minister is responsible for policy. Day-to-day operations are the responsibility of the military chief of staff and the national defense staff.

An agreement signed in September 1996, which is one of the substantive peace accords, mandated that the mission of the armed forces change to focus exclusively on external threats. However, both former President Arzu and his successor President Portillo used a constitutional clause to order the army to temporarily support the police in response to a nationwide wave of violent crime.

The accord calls for a one-third reduction in the army’s authorized strength and budget—achieved under President Berger—and for a constitutional amendment to permit the appointment of a civilian Minister of Defense. A constitutional amendment to this end was defeated as part of a May 1999 plebiscite, but discussions on how to achieve this objective continue between the executive and legislative branches.

The army has gone beyond its accord-mandated target of reducing its strength to 28,000 troops, and numbered 15,500 troops as of June 2004. Not only was this the most profound transformation of any Central American military in the last 50 years, it also illustrates the effective control the civilian government has over the military. President Berger has tasked the Defense Ministry with increasing the professional skills of all soldiers.

The military is equipped with armaments and materiel from the United States, Israel, Serbia and Montenegro, Taiwan, Argentina, Spain, and France. As part of the army downsizing, the operational structure of 19 military zones and three strategic brigades were recast as several military zones are eliminated and their area of operations absorbed by others. The air force operates three air bases; the navy has two port bases. Additionally, recent steps have been taken to redefine the military’s mission—the military doctrine has been rewritten, and there has been an increase in cooperation with civil society to help bring about this reform.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Guatemala’s major diplomatic interests are regional security and, increasingly, regional development and economic integration. Guatemala participates in several regional groups, particularly those related to trade and the environment.

The Council of Central American Ministers of Trade meets on a regular basis to work on regional approaches to trade issues. The council signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the U.S. in 1998, and was part of the negotiations that led to the creation of CAFTA. Guatemala joined Honduras and El Salvador in signing a free trade agreement with Mexico in 2000, which went into effect the following year. Guatemala also originated the idea for, and is the seat of, the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN).

The U.S and Central American countries signed the CONCAUSA (Conjunto Centroamerica-USA) agreement at the Summit of the Americas in December 1994. CONCAUSA is a cooperative plan of action to promote clean, efficient energy use; conserve the region’s biodiversity; strengthen legal and institutional frameworks and compliance mechanisms; and improve and harmonize environmental protection standards.

Guatemala has a long-standing claim to a large portion of Belize; the territorial dispute caused problems with the United Kingdom and later with Belize following its 1981 independence from the U.K. In December 1989, Guatemala sponsored Belize for permanent observer status in the Organization of American States (OAS). In September 1991, Guatemala recognized Belize’s independence and established diplomatic ties, while acknowledging that the boundaries remained in dispute. In anticipation of an effort to bring the border dispute to an end in early 1996, the Guatemalan Congress ratified two long-pending international agreements governing frontier issues and maritime rights. In 2001, Guatemala and Belize agreed to a facilitation process led by the OAS to determine the land and maritime borders separating the two countries. National elections in Guatemala put a temporary halt to progress, but discussions resumed in November 2005. Since being named Foreign Minister in early August 2006, Gert Rosenthal has reinvigorated discussions with Belize.

U.S.-GUATEMALAN RELATIONS

Relations between the United States and Guatemala traditionally have been close, although at times strained by human rights and civil/military issues. U.S. policy objectives in Guatemala include:

  • Supporting the institutionalization of democracy and implementation of the peace accords;
  • Ratification of a free trade agreement, together with the other Central American countries;
  • Encouraging respect for human rights and the rule of law, and implementation of the Commission for the Investigation of Illegal Groups and Clandestine Security Organizations in Guatemala (CICIACS);
  • Supporting broad-based economic growth and sustainable development and maintaining mutually beneficial trade and commercial relations;
  • Cooperating to combat money laundering, corruption, narcotics trafficking, alien-smuggling, and other transnational crime; and
  • Supporting Central American integration through support for resolution of border/territorial disputes.

The United States, as a member of “the Friends of Guatemala,” along with Colombia, Mexico, Spain, Norway, and Venezuela, played an important role in the UN-moderated peace accords, providing public and behind-the-scenes support. The U.S. strongly supports the six substantive and three procedural accords, which, along with the signing of the December 29, 1996 final accord, form the blueprint for profound political, economic, and social change. To that end, the U.S. Government has committed over $400 million to support peace implementation since 1997.

Although almost all of the 250,000 U.S. tourists who visit Guatemala annually do so without incident, in recent years the number of violent crime reported by U.S. citizens has steadily increased. Increases in the number of Americans reported as victims of violent crime may be the result of any combination of factors: increased numbers of Americans traveling to Guatemala; increased accuracy in the Embassy’s reporting of crime; more Americans traveling to higher risk areas of Guatemala; or more crime.

Most U.S. assistance to Guatemala is provided through the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) offices for Guatemala. USAID’s programs support U.S. foreign policy objectives by promoting reforms in democratic governance, economic growth, and the social sectors, with special emphasis on the rural indigenous poor whose lives have been most seriously affected by the internal civil conflict. In addition to earning low incomes, these populations have limited economic opportunities for economic advancement, lack access to social services, and have limited access to, or influence over, the policymaking processes. USAID programs pursue six objectives. These are:

  • Supporting the implementation of the 1996 peace accords;
  • Aiding the improvement of the legal system and assisting citizens in its use;
  • Increasing educational access and quality for all Guatemalans;
  • Improving the health of Guatemalan women, children, and rural families;
  • Increasing the earning capacity of poor rural families; and
  • Expanding natural resources management and conservation of biodiversity.

USAID’s largest program is the support of the peace accords. The accords require major investments in health, education, and other basic services to reach the rural indigenous poor and require the full participation of the indigenous people in local and national decision-making. They also call for a profound restructuring of the state, affecting some of its most fundamental institutions—the military, the national police, and the system of justice—in order to end impunity and confirm the rule of law. Finally, they require basic changes in tax collection and expenditure and improved financial management.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

GUATEMALA (E) Address: Ave. Reforma 7-01, Zona 10; APO/FPO: APO AA 34024; Phone: (502) 2326-4000; Fax: (502) 2326-4658; INMARSAT Tel: 683133345; Workweek: Mon-Thu: 7: 0 to 5:00 p.m.; Fri: 7:30 to 12:30; Website: http://guatemala.usembassy.gov/.

AMB:James M. Derham
AMB OMS:Elizabeth Selva
DCM:David Lindwall
DCM OMS:Angelica Mendez
CG:John Lowell
POL/ECO:Alexander Featherstone
MGT:Scott Heckman
AGR:Steve Huete
AID:Wayne Nilsestuen
APHIS:Gordon Tween
CLO:Maria Eustace
DAO:Humberto Rodriguez
DEA:Michael O’Brien
EEO:Allan Langland and Jennifer Davis-Paguada
FCS:Patricia Wagner
FMO:Victor Carbonell
GSO:Patty Baide
ICASS Chair:Steve Huete
IMO:Frank Alonso
INS:Joe Roma
IPO:Steve Wheelock
ISO:Ray Harger
LAB:Lucy Chang
MLO:Linda Gould
NAS:Dan Bellegarde
PAO:David Young
RSO:John Eustace
State ICASS:Alexander Featherstone

Last Updated: 12/26/2006

Other Contact Information

U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration Trade Information Center
14th and Constitution, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 800-USA-TRADE
Internet: http://www.ita.doc.gov

American Chamber of Commerce in Guatemala
5a avenida 5-55 zona 14 Europlaza,
Torre I Nivel 5
01014 Guatemala City, Guatemala
Tel: (502) 2333-3899
Fax: (502) 2368-3536
E-Mail: [email protected]

Caribbean/Latin American Action (C/LAA)
1818 N Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel.: 202-466-7464

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet : October 13, 2006

Country Description: Guatemala has a developing economy, characterized by wide income disparities. Hotels and other tourist facilities in the principal tourist sites most frequented by visitors from the United States are generally good to excellent. A peace accord, signed in 1996, ended a 36-year armed conflict. Violent crime, however, is a serious concern due to endemic poverty, an abundance of weapons, a legacy of societal violence, and dysfunctional law enforcement and judicial systems.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A valid U.S. passport is required for all U.S. citizens, regardless of age, to enter Guatemala and to depart Guatemala for return to the U.S. Even if dual nationals are permitted to enter Guatemala on a second nationality passport, U.S. citizens returning to the United States from Guatemala are not allowed to board their flights without a valid U.S. passport. Guatemalan authorities do not accept Certificates of Naturalization, birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and photocopies as alternative travel documents. While in Guatemala, U.S. citizens should carry their passports, or a photocopy of their passports, with them at all times.

An exit tax must be paid when departing Guatemala by air. The exit tax (currently $30) is generally included in an airline ticket price, but may be charged separately. There is an additional airport security fee (20 Quetzales, approximately $2.50) that all travelers must pay at the airport. Minors under 18 traveling with a valid U.S. passport need no special permission from their parents to enter or leave Guatemala. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for a stay of 90 days or less (that period can be extended for an additional 180 days upon application to Guatemalan immigration).

A U.S. citizen whose passport is lost or stolen in Guatemala must obtain a new passport at the U.S. Embassy as soon as possible and present it, together with a police report of the loss or theft, to the Dirección de Migración (Guatemalan immigration agency), Sub-director de Control Migratorio (Sub-director for Migratory Control), to obtain permission to depart Guatemala. The agency is located in Guatemala City at 6 Avenida 3-11, Zone 4, Guatemala City. Office hours are weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; telephone 2411-2411. No fee is charged by Guatemalan immigration for this service.

In June 2006, Guatemala entered a “Central America-4 (CA-4) Border Control Agreement” with El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Under the terms of the agreement, citizens of the four countries may travel freely across land borders from one of the countries to any of the others without completing entry and exit formalities at Immigration checkpoints. U.S. citizens and other eligible foreign nationals, who legally enter any of the four countries, may similarly travel among the four without obtaining additional visas or tourist entry permits for the other three countries. Immigration officials at the first port of entry determine the length of stay, up to a maximum period of 90 days. Foreign tourists who wish to remain in the four country region beyond the period initially granted for their visit are required to request a one-time extension of stay from local Immigration authorities in the country where the traveler is physically present, or travel outside the CA-4 countries and reapply for admission to the region. Foreigners “expelled” from any of the four countries are excluded from the entire “CA-4” region. In isolated cases, the lack of clarity in the implementing details of the CA-4 Border Control Agreement has caused temporary inconvenience to some travelers and has resulted in others being fined more than one hundred dollars or detained in custody for 72 hours or longer.

For further information regarding entry, exit and customs requirements, travelers should contact the Guatemalan Embassy at 2220 R Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008; telephone (202) 745-4952, extension 102; fax (202) 745-1908; email at [email protected]; Internet web site—http://www.guatemala-embassy.org or contact the nearest Guatemalan consulate (Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, or San Francisco).

Safety and Security: Violent criminal activity has been a problem in all parts of Guatemala for years, including murder, rape, and armed assaults against foreigners. The police force is inexperienced and under-funded, and the judicial system is weak, overworked, and inefficient. Well-armed criminals know that there is little chance they will be caught and punished. Traditionally, Guatemala experiences increases in crime before and during the Christmas and Easter holiday seasons.

Large demonstrations occur throughout Guatemala, often with little or no notice, and they can cause serious traffic disruptions. Although most demonstrations are peaceful, they can turn violent, and travelers should avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place. The use of roadblocks and/or blocking of public facilities, including the international airport, has increased and demonstrators may prevent tourists caught behind the blockades from leaving.

Due to uncontrolled drug and alien smuggling, the Guatemalan border with Mexico is a relatively high-risk area, in particular in the northern most Peten Department. The most dangerous area in that region is on the northwestern border of the Peten, in the area including the Sierra de Lacandon and Laguna del Tigre National Parks. Extra precautions are required when travel by U.S. Government personnel to the region is required.

In October 2005 Hurricane Stan caused widespread flooding and landslides on Guatemala’s Pacific coast and in many parts of the Highlands, affecting a number of tourist destinations frequented by foreign travelers. All major highways and tourist destinations reopened by the end of the month, and most secondary routes are also fully open. Temporary repairs are still in place; some have already been washed out and others will likely fail during the current rainy season (May through October).

The following recommendations will help residents and visitors alike to increase their safety:

Avoid gatherings of agitated people. Guatemalan citizen frustration with crime and a lack of appropriate judicial remedies has led to violent incidents of vigilantism, including lynching, especially in more isolated, rural areas. Attempting to intervene may put you at risk of attacks from mobs.

Avoid close contact with children, including taking photographs, especially in rural areas. Such contact can be viewed with deep alarm and may provoke panic and violence. Rumors of foreigners stealing children surface periodically and can provoke a violent response towards strangers. Foreign tourists have been attacked by mobs and some years ago one was killed while photographing children.

Keep informed of possible demonstrations by following the local news and consulting hotel personnel and tour guides. Avoid areas where demonstrations are occurring.

Strong currents, riptides, and undertow along Guatemala’s Pacific Coast beaches pose a serious threat to even the strongest swimmers. Signs warning of treacherous surf are rare and confined mostly to private beaches owned by hotels. Lifeguards are rarely present on beaches.

Tourists planning to climb Pacaya and Agua volcanoes during Guatemala’s rainy season (May through October) should plan their climb for the morning hours, when it is less likely that thunderstorms will occur. Climbers should monitor the weather situation and return to the base of the volcano as quickly as safely possible if thunderstorms gather. In 2003, a Canadian tourist was killed by lightning while climbing Pacaya. INGUAT, the Guatemalan Tourist Institute, has organized an active community-based tourism program in San Vicente Pacaya to minimize the risk of armed robbery on Pacaya. Climbing in groups is still highly advisable for any volcano climb to reduce the risk of assault.

Security escorts for tourist groups and security information are available from the Tourist Assistance Office of INGUAT (the Guatemalan Tourist Institute) at 7a Avenida 1-17, Zona 4 Centro Cívico, Ciudad de Guatemala. INGUAT’s 24 hour/seven days per week direct telephone numbers for tourist assistance and emergencies are (502) 2421-2810 and (502) 5578-9836 and the fax is (502) 2421-2891. INGUAT may be reached by its toll free number within the United States at 1-888- 464-8281. You may also simply dial 1500 in Guatemala to reach INGUAT Tourist Assistance. The email address is [email protected] Travelers may also wish to visit INGUAT’s website, http://visitguatemala.com. Tourist groups are advised to request security escorts from INGUAT, Attention: Coordinator of the National Tourist Assistance Program. There have been no incidents of armed robbery of groups escorted through the Tourist Protection Program. The request should be submitted by mail, fax or email and should arrive at INGUAT at least three business days in advance of the proposed travel, giving the itinerary, names of travelers, and model and color of vehicle in which they will be traveling. Travelers should be aware that INGUAT might not be able to accommodate all requests.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: The number of violent crimes reported by U.S. citizens and other foreigners has remained high in recent years. Incidents include, but are not limited to, assault, theft, armed robbery, carjacking, rape, kidnapping, and murder. Criminals often operate in groups of four or more and are confrontational and violent. Gangs are a growing concern in Guatemala City and rural Guatemala. Gang members are often well armed with sophisticated weaponry and they sometimes use massive amounts of force. Emboldened armed robbers have attacked vehicles on main roads in broad daylight. Travel on rural roads always increases the risk of a criminal roadblock or ambush. Widespread narcotics and alien smuggling activities can make remote areas especially dangerous. Though there is no evidence that Americans are particularly targeted, criminals look for every opportunity to attack, so all travelers should remain constantly vigilant.

Most tourists and visitors travel throughout Guatemala without mishap. However, violent criminal activity on the highways continues, and tourists, among others, have been targeted. Many of the robbery attempts have occurred in daylight hours on main highways. Carjacking incidents and highway robberies are often violent. Four Americans were killed in highway robbery attempts in 2002 and three killed and one wounded in 2003. In 2004 one American tourist was murdered, and women and children were raped in highway assaults. Several highway assaults of American citizens also took place in 2005, but without serious injury to the victims. In some cases, assailants have been wearing full or partial police uniforms and have used vehicles that resemble police vehicles, indicating that some elements of the police might be involved. Armed robberies have occurred within minutes of the tourist’s vehicle being stopped by the police. U.S. Embassy personnel continue to observe heightened security precautions in Guatemala City and on the roads outside the capital city. U.S. tourists are urged to be especially aware of safety and security concerns when traveling on the roads in Guatemala. Rather than traveling alone, use a reputable tour organization. Stay in groups; travel in a caravan consisting of two or more vehicles; and, stay on the main roads. Ensure that someone not traveling with you is aware of your itinerary. Resist the temptation to stay in hotels that do not have adequate security. Travel after dark anywhere in Guatemala is extremely dangerous. It is preferable to stay in the main tourist destinations. Do not explore back roads or isolated paths near tourist sites. Pay close attention to your surroundings, especially when walking or when driving in Guatemala City. Refrain from displaying expensive-looking jewelry, large amounts of money, or other valuable items. Finally, if confronted by criminals, be aware that resistance may provoke a more violent response.

Additional Information: In recent months there has been an increasing number of carjacking incidents and armed robberies near the airport, most frequently between 6:00 and 10:00 am. In the most common scenario tourists or business travelers who land at the airport around 7:00 am are held up by armed men as their vehicle departs the airport. Private vehicles, taxis and shuttle buses have been attacked. Typically, the assailants steal money, passports, and luggage, and in some but not all cases, the assailants steal the vehicle as well. Victims who did not resist the attackers were not physically injured. The Embassy advises its own employees to seek alternative routes for exiting the airport.

Pickpockets and purse-snatchers are active in all major cities and tourist sites, especially the central market and other parts of Zone 1 in Guatemala City and the city of Antigua. In a common scenario, an accomplice distracts the victim, while an assailant slashes or simply steals a bag or backpack while the victim’s attention is diverted.

As in other countries, criminals also use a number of scams to steal money and possessions from tourists in Guatemala. In one popular scam, robbers place a nail in a parked vehicle’s tire. The vehicle is then followed by the robbers who pose as “good Samaritans” when the tire becomes flat and the victims pull to the side of the road. While “help” is being rendered, the contents of the car are stolen, often without the knowledge of the victims. However, in some cases, the robbers have threatened the tourists with weapons. Parking areas in and around the Guatemala City International Airport are particularly prone to this crime. In another scam, victims are approached in a hotel, restaurant or other public place by an individual claiming there is some sort of problem with his or the would-be victim’s automobile in the parking lot. On the way to investigate the “problem,” usually in a remote or concealed area near the parking lot, the robber pulls a gun on the victim demanding cash, credit cards and other valuables. A third popular scam involves various attempts to acquire a victim’s ATM card and PIN number. Some sophisticated criminals have even placed boxes outside ATM kiosks that record PIN numbers when unsuspecting victims believe they must enter their PIN number to gain entry to the ATM foyer. After recording PIN numbers, robbers then steal the owner’s ATM card to complete their crime. There are dozens of techniques scammers can use to rob victims of money and possessions. While most people mean no harm, always be cautious when strangers approach you for any reason or make unusual requests.

Parents adopting children in Guatemala have also been victimized in public places and at their hotels by police (or individuals dressed as police) who have threatened to arrest foster mothers and turn adoptive children over to orphanages, but released them in exchange for significant payments, often approaching $1000. Such threats have no basis in Guatemalan law, and should be immediately reported to the Embassy.

For security reasons, the Embassy does not allow U.S. government employees to stay in hotels in Zone 1 in Guatemala City and urges private travelers to avoid staying in this area.

Avoid low-priced intra- and inter-city buses (recycled U.S. school buses); they are often attacked by armed robbers and are poorly maintained and dangerously driven. The use of modern inter-city buses somewhat improves security and safety. There have been, however, several attacks on travelers on first-class buses on highway CA-2 near the border areas with both Mexico and El Salvador and on highways CA-1 and CA-9 near the El Salvador border and in the highlands between Quetzaltenango and Solola. Be cautious with personal items such as backpacks and fanny packs while riding buses, because tourists’ possessions are a favorite target of thieves.

Do not hail taxis on the street in Guatemala City. Use radio-dispatched taxis or taxis from major hotels instead.

The main road to Lake Atitlan via the Inter-American Highway (CA-1) and Solola is safer than the alternatives, though attacks in recent years have made traveling in a caravan highly recommended, even on the Inter-American Highway. Robbery and assault have been frequently reported on secondary roads near the lake with the highest number of incidents occurring on the RN-11 (Las Trampas road) parallel to the east side of the lake. Robbers have used mountain roads advantageously to stop buses, vans and cars in a variety of ways.

Armed attacks have occurred on roads from Guatemala City to the Peten. Visitors to the Mayan ruins at Tikal are urged to fly to nearby Flores and then travel by bus or tour van to the site.

Violent attacks have occurred in the Mayan ruins in the Peten, including in the Cerro Cahui Conservation Park, Yaxha, the road to and inside Tikal Park, and in the Tikal ruins. Tourist police (POLITUR) patrols inside the park have significantly reduced the violent crime incidents inside the park, but travelers should nevertheless remain in groups and on the principal trails leading to the Central Plaza and the Temple IV complex, and avoid remote areas of the park.

POLITUR (a joint police/Guatemalan Tourism Institute initiative) is present in all major tourist destinations. They should be contacted in case of any criminal incident in such areas, even if minor.

Foreign residents of Guatemala have special concerns. Twenty American citizen residents and five American citizen tourists have been murdered since December 1999, and suspects have been convicted in only two cases. There have been “express” kidnappings in recent years, primarily in Guatemala City, in which a relatively small ransom that can be quickly gathered is demanded. U.S. citizens have been kidnapped in recent years. At least one incident of a random kidnapping, in which the victim was grabbed off the street in an affluent neighborhood of the city, occurred in December 2003 and resulted in a physical and sexual assault.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: A full range of medical care is available in Guatemala City, but medical care outside the city is limited. Guatemala’s public hospitals frequently experience serious shortages of basic medicines and equipment. Care in private hospitals is generally adequate for most common illnesses and injuries, and many of the medical specialists working in them are U.S. trained and certified.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Guatemala is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Driving in Guatemala requires one’s full attention, and safe drivers must take extraordinary efforts to drive defensively to avoid dangerous situations.

Traffic rules are only casually observed. Many drivers do not use their turn signals to alert other drivers. Instead, a common custom is for a driver or passenger to stick a hand out the window and wave it to indicate that they will be taking an unspecified action. Speed limits, lane markings and stop signs are frequently ignored. Passing blindly on winding and/or steep mountain roads, poorly designed surfaces, and unmarked hazards, including frequent landslides and precarious temporary highway repairs, present additional risks to motorists.

Common public transportation is by local recycled school busses, which serve every town in the country. Criminal activity and frequent fatal accidents, however, make the low-priced inter-city buses particularly dangerous. Modern inter-city buses offer some security from highway violence, but armed attacks are increasing, showing that all buses are vulnerable.

Although city streets are lit, secondary and rural roads have little to no illumination. Driving outside of urban areas at night is dangerous and not recommended. The Inter-American Highway (CA-1) and the road from Guatemala City to the Caribbean coast (CA-9) are especially dangerous due to heavy traffic, including large trucks and trailers. There are no roadside assistance clubs, however a roadside assistance force (PROVIAL) patrols most of the major highways in the country. PROVIAL can be contacted by calling 2422-7878. Their vehicles are equipped with basic tools and first aid supplies, and their services are free. Police patrol the major roadways and may assist travelers, but the patrols are sporadic and may be suspended due to budget restraints. For roadside assistance, travelers may call the police by dialing 120 or the fire department by dialing 122 or 123. Cellular telephone service covers most areas frequented by tourists.

Valid U.S. driver’s licenses are accepted for the first 30 days of a visit, and international driving permits are accepted in Guatemala for extended stays. Guatemala’s road safety authorities are the Department of Transit and the Joint Operations Center of the National Police. Drivers use the right-hand side of the road in Guatemala, and speed limits are posted (in kilometers) depending on the condition of the road. Speed limits are different in rural and urban areas, but are rarely enforced. Drivers often drive at the absolute maximum speed possible for the particular vehicle at the time. These drivers share the road with slow vehicles, some barely able to manage 20 miles per hour, creating a hazardous mix of velocities. Turning right on red is not permitted unless otherwise posted, and drivers must yield when entering a traffic circle. Seat belts must be worn in Guatemala, but there are no laws regarding the use of child safety seats. It is against the law for drivers to operate cellular phones while driving.

People found driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs are arrested and may serve jail time. In an accident resulting in injury or death, every driver involved is taken into custody and the vehicle(s) impounded until a judge determines responsibility in a re-enactment of the accident.

Visit the website of Guatemala’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.inguat.gob.gt or via email at [email protected] or [email protected]

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Guatemala’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of Guatemala’s air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet website at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: A major renovation of the international terminal at La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City is currently under way. Until completion in late 2006 or early 2007, there is a temporary reconfiguration of arrival and departure vehicle traffic and major construction works inside the terminal.

Guatemalan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Guatemala of items such as antiquities and other cultural property. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Guatemala in Washington or one of Guatemala’s consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.

Non-Guatemalan citizens who wish to marry in Guatemala are required to provide proof of identity and civil status (indicating whether they are single or divorced). Prior notice of the marriage must be given in the Diario de Centro America (Guatemala’s Official Record) and any large circulation daily newspaper for fifteen days. The marriage must take place within six months of the publication of the notice.

Disaster Preparedness: Guatemala is a geologically active country. Visitors should be aware of the possibility of earthquakes at any time and the need for contingency plans. There are also four active volcanoes. Volcanic activity, such as that of Fuego Volcano near Antigua in January 2003, and again in January 2006, has on occasion forced evacuations of nearby villages; the January-February 2000 activity of Pacaya Volcano near Guatemala City also briefly closed Guatemala City’s international airport. Both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Guatemala are also vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms from June through November. Mudslides and flooding during the May to November rainy season often kill dozens of people and close roads. In October 2005 Hurricane Stan caused widespread flooding and landslides on Guatemala’s Pacific coast and in many parts of the Highlands. Over 1000 Guatemalans died, and many highways across the affected regions were closed for days. All highways have now reopened. Temporary repairs are still in place; some have already been washed out and others will likely fail during the current rainy season. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating Guatemalan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Guatemala are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children’s Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living or traveling in Guatemala are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Guatemala. Americans withoutInternet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

The latest security information is available from the Embassy, including its website, http://guatemala.usembassy.gov

The Consular Section is open for citizen services, including registration, from 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon and 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursdays and 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Fridays, excluding U.S. and Guatemalan holidays. The second and last Friday of each month are reserved for administrative matters; therefore, routine citizen services are not provided. Emergency services are available at all times. The U.S. Embassy is located in Guatemala City at Avenida La Reforma 7-01, Zone 10; telephone (502) 2-326-4000 during Embassy business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), or (502) 2-331-2354 for emergencies during non-business hours; fax (502) 2-332-4353; Internet web site http://guatemala.usembassy.gov.

International Adoption : February 2007

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Alert: The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala has occasionally received reports of Guatemalan police in and around some of the major hotels in Guatemala City attempting to extort money from adopting parents by threatening to take the biological or foster mother and the prospective or adopted child into custody. We know of no legal basis under local Guatemalan law for such actions and encourage all U.S. citizens who encounter similar experiences to report them immediately to their local lawyer and the American Citizens Services section at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City.

Please read the Guatemala Consular Information Sheet at: http://travel.state.gov for updated information about security and other local conditions.

Please Note: The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala schedules specific immigrant visa appointment dates and times for all adoption cases and issues “Pink Slips” that contain this information. Prospective adoptive parents are urged not to travel to Guatemala until the “Pink Slip” has been issued.

Patterns of Immigration: Please review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Adoption Authority: The Guatemalan Solicitor General’s Office (Procuradoría General de la Nación, PGN) is the adoption authority in Guatemala. Adoptions must be finalized through the PGN.

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: Under Guatemalan law, prospective adoptive parents may be married or single and must be at least 18 years old. There are no requirements for an age-difference between the prospective adoptive parent and the child. There are also no disqualifying medical ineligibilities.

Residency Requirements: The Government of Guatemala has no residency requirements for prospective adoptive parents.

Time Frame: Based on the results of a survey conducted by the U.S. Embassy in 2005 of prospective adoptive parents, an adoption of a Guatemalan child takes on average 9 and a half months from start to finish.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: Since 1977, adoptions are handled as an administrative matter and attorneys and notaries participate in all aspects of the adoption process within Guatemala. The U.S. based adoption agency serves as the adoptive family’s agent, and the Guatemalan attorney serves as an agent for the adoptive family’s agency. Therefore, prospective adoptive parents should be kept informed of all aspects of the identification, care, and adoption process of their prospective adoptive children by the U.S. based adoption agency or agent.

If prospective adoptive parents have hired an agency in the United States to assist in the adoption, the agency is responsible for keeping them informed about their case. Prospective adoptive parents should ask their agency for the name(s) of their attorney(s) and whether anyone in the attorney’s office speaks English, etc. The United States Government is not in a position to inquire on individual adoption cases from the Guatemalan authorities.

Some families have worked directly with an attorney in Guatemala instead of an intermediary agency in the United States. While these prospective adoptive parents may face certain risks and forego the support of organizations with intercountry adoption experience, if they choose competent, experienced attorneys they can have satisfactory experiences. Unfortunately, some parents have experienced problems working directly with Guatemalan attorneys, and prospective adoptive parents are encouraged to research their options before selecting an attorney. The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala maintains a list of Guatemalan English speaking attorneys on their website at: http://guatemala.usembassy.gov/acs_legal_information.html. This list, however, does not indicate those attorneys’ areas of specialization. The best method of finding a competent attorney is to obtain referrals from families who have had satisfactory experiences working with a specific attorney. The U.S. Government cannot assume responsibility for the professional ability or personal integrity of Guatemalan attorneys.

Adoption Fees: The Solicitor General’s office (PGN) does not charge any fees for adoptions. Based on the results of a survey of prospective adoptive parents conducted by the U.S. Embassy in 2005, families should expect to pay an average of $27,000 (in a range from $17,300 to $45,000) to adopt a Guatemalan child. According to Guatemalan press reports, some Guatemalan lawyers charge up to $35,000 for each adoption. One lawyer quoted in the local press said that he earns between $15,000 and $20,000 per adoption.

Adoption Procedures: Intercountry adoptions in Guatemala are processed under a “notarial” system. In many cases, Guatemalan attorneys personally take physical custody of and propose potential orphans to U.S. adoption service providers, who in turn offer the child/ren to their American client prospective adoptive parents. If the prospective adoptive parents accept the referral they receive from their U.S. agency, the prospective adoptive parents must provide the attorney with a “power of attorney” to act on their behalf to complete the adoption.

In most cases the same attorney represents the birth parent(s), the adopting parent(s) and the child(ren) in the Guatemalan government proceedings. When viewed in comparison to normal U.S. legal procedures, this appears to be a conflict of interest, and prospective adoptive parents should take that into consideration when initiating a Guatemalan adoption.

Prospective adoptive parents must receive receipt of “pre-approval” from the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS/USCIS) office in Guatemala before their attorney can submit their dossier to the Guatemalan authorities. After obtaining clearance from a social worker under the supervision of a family court to proceed with a potential adoption case, the attorney submits the case to the Guatemalan Solicitor General’s Office (Procuradoría General de la Nación, PGN) for review.

Once the PGN approves the case, the Guatemalan attorney (the notary) authorizes the adoption deed and registers it at the Civil Registrar where the child’s birth was registered. The Guatemalan birth mother needs to provide final approval for the adoption at the time of the adoption deed. Upon registration of the adoption deed with the Civil Registrar, the adoptive parents in the U.S. are legally responsible for their child(ren). Finally, the Guatemalan attorney requests a birth certificate listing the adoptive parents as the parents of the adopted child. Following issuance of the new birth certificate, the attorney then requests and receives, normally on the same day, the child’s Guatemalan passport. With these final documents, the attorney submits the complete case file, including the I-600 orphan visa petition, to DHS/USCIS in Guatemala.

Documentary Requirements: The Government of Guatemala reviews adoptions on a case-by case basis and will provide information on necessary documents to the U.S. based adoption agency and/or attorney. The Department of State is not in a position to provide a definitive list of requirements at this time.

Embassy of Guatemala:
2220 R Street, N.W.
Washington, DC. 20008
Tel (202) 745-4952
Fax (202) 745-1908
[email protected]embassy.org

Guatemala also has consulates in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco.

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

DHS/USCIS Review of Birth Mother Information and DNAT-esting: Problems occur when U.S. citizens are encouraged to adopt children who do not meet the U.S. immigration definition of “orphan.” In some cases, these children may have been obtained by illegal means, perhaps even stolen. The DHS/USCIS office at the U.S. Embassy requires DNA testing in all cases where an identifiable birth mother is alleged to have released the child, because the use of a false birth mother to release “her child” is the usual method chosen by unscrupulous operators to create a paper trail for an illegally obtained child. Occasionally DHS/USCIS must also interview and investigate the birth mother. These problematic cases are further complicated by the high incidence of corruption and civil document fraud in Guatemala.

For more detailed information on DHS/USCIS requirements, Please review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Before Traveling to Guatemala: Before adoptive parents make airline reservations for themselves or for an escort and the child, they should confirm with their Guatemalan attorney or U.S. adoption agency that the consular section has issued the appointment letter (“Pink Slip”) with a specific immigrant visa interview appointment date and time. They should also confirm that:

1. If the paperwork was filed in the United States, that the Consular section has received a notice of approval of the I-600 petition (visas 38 or 39 cable), and the adoptive parent has all required documents for the interview, including the child’s Guatemalan passport and has or can obtain prior to the appointment date the medical exam results.

2. If the I-600 will be filed in Guatemala, that the Consular section has received a notice of approval of the I-600A application (visas 37 cable), and that the DHS/USCIS office has approved the adoption documents and cleared the adoptive family for the appointment (after review of the Guatemalan adoption paperwork).

Prospective adoptive parents should review the list of required documents to ensure that they are available for the visa interview, including the child’s Guatemalan passport and has or can obtain prior to the appointment date the medical exam results.

Escorts: If neither adoptive parent plans to travel to Guatemala and the child will be escorted by a third party for the visa interview, the I-600 Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative must be filed in the United States and the Consular section must have the official internal transmission (called the Visas 38 or 39) from DHS indicating its approval of the I-600 petition. The escort is required to present to the consular officer at the visa interview a recently executed power of attorney that specifically indicates that the power of attorney is for any and all documentation and procedures involved in the adoption and immigration of a named child. A statement from the adoptive parents authorizing the escort to take the child to the United States for the purpose of placing him/her with the adoptive parent(s) can also be included in the judge’s authorization for the child to leave Guatemala. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

U.S. Embassy:
Avenida Reforma 7-01, Zona 10
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Email: [email protected]
Fax at: 011-502-2326-4674
Website: http://guatemala.usembassy.gov/

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in Guatemala may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala. General questions regarding intercountry adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

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Guatemala

Guatemala

Type of Government

Title 3, Chapter 1 of Guatemala’s 1985 constitution defines the country’s system of government as republican, democratic, and representative. For much of the country’s history, however, those concepts have been ideals rather than actual practices; democratic and representative governance has been interrupted by periods of military rule, sometimes accompanied by political violence and widespread abuses of human rights. Since democratically elected president Vinicio Cerezo took office in 1986, however, Guatemala’s democratic institutions have been strengthened. The constitution provides for separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, with a directly elected president and vice president. Guatemala has a unicameral legislature, the Congress of the Republic. A Constitutional Court, which judges the constitutionality of laws, is the highest organ of the Guatemalan judiciary; a Supreme Court stands at the apex of a system of lower courts.

Background

Bordered by Mexico to the north, Belize to the northeast, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast, Guatemala has shorelines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Amatique Bay, which leads to the Caribbean Sea. Much of the country is mountainous, and its major population centers lie away from the oceans. The region that is now Guatemala had a long cultural history before the arrival of Spanish explorers. It was home to the Maya civilization, creators of many large cities, a writing system, and massive pyramids. The Spanish conquest of the Maya, whose civilization had already been weakened by unknown causes, began with the arrival of Hernán Cortés (1485–1547) in Mexico; his deputy, Pedro de Alvarado (c. 1485–1541), at first working to turn the area’s various Native American peoples against one another, asserted Spanish control over most of the area in the 1520s. The captaincy-general (division of a viceroyalty) of Guatemala was established by Spanish colonial authorities, and natural disasters destroyed the first two cities that grew around the Spanish administrative facilities before the founding of present-day Guatemala City in 1776.

Following Mexico, Guatemala declared its independence from Spain in 1821. Guatemala was part of a short-lived First Mexican Empire in 1822 and 1823 before it joined the Provincias Unidas de Centro-américa (United Provinces of Central America), which was an attempt to form a U.S.-influenced federal republic in the southern part of Central America. The military leader Rafael Carrera (1814–1865) led attacks on that federal government in the 1830s and hastened its dissolution in 1840. He became Guatemala’s first president and later proclaimed himself president for life. Reformist governments in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries modernized the country and established coffee as a major cash crop. However, the military, which was backed by high-ranking Catholic Church figures, owners of large agricultural estates, and later the U.S.-owned United Fruit Company, often set the country’s direction.

In 1944 reform-minded military officers mounted a successful coup d’état against the autocratic government of General Jorge Ubico (1878–1946) and organized free elections. The following year Guatemala implemented its first modern constitution, guaranteeing civil rights for all. A ten-year period of democratic rule followed, but ended when a 1954 coup backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency deposed the democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz (1913–1971). The coup began with an uprising by the so-called Liberation Army, which claimed to be sympathetic to conservative interests. Arbenz turned over power to military officers during the period of instability that followed, and the army colonel and Liberation Army leader Castillo Armas (1914–1957) was installed as president. U.S. motivations included the Arbenz government’s decision to nationalize properties owned by the United Fruit Company as well as dissatisfaction with the country’s leftward drift. Armas himself was assassinated in 1957 and was followed by the repressive General Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes (1895–1982). A second reform-oriented coup was attempted against Ydígoras Fuentes in 1960, but this one failed. Its leaders went underground and organized various groups of guerrilla fighters.

The next twenty-five years saw Guatemalan society—which was split between forces loyal to a series of military governments and a broad-based leftist insurgency, much of which was rooted in the country’s still-numerous Native American communities—descend into civil war. Especially after the ascent to power of Ríos Montt in 1982, these communities came under attack from local units of the Guatemalan military. He was removed from power in 1983, and the military leaders who replaced him promoted a return to civilian rule. A key element in this process was the drafting of a new constitution in 1985 by the freely elected legislature; that constitution, which was amended in 1994, forms the basis for Guatemala’s current government.

Government Structure

The Guatemalan government consists of executive, legislative, and judiciary branches. The president and vice president are directly elected to four-year terms. The president may not run again, but the vice president may run for president after waiting for four years after leaving office. Both the president and vice president must be Guatemalan-born and at least forty years of age. The president is both the head of government and head of state.

Guatemala’s legislature, the Congreso de la República (Congress of the Republic), is unicameral (one chamber). There are 158 diputados (deputies), and each are elected concurrently with the president and vice president to four-year terms. Candidates run for deputy posts on party lists, favoring coalitions among Guatemala’s smaller political parties. Of the 158 deputies, 29 are elected in national, at-large voting, and the rest are chosen to represent individual Guatemalan regional departments. The country is divided into twenty-two of these departments; for the purposes of legislative elections, the Department of Guatemala, which contains the capital of Guatemala City, is divided into two districts. The legislature’s power to enact legislation is restricted by the fact that many measures require a two-thirds majority vote for passage.

Guatemalan laws are overseen by the Corte de la Constitucionalidad (Constitutional Court), whose five members are all named by different bodies: the Congreso de la República, the Corte Suprema de Justicia (Supreme Court of Justice), the president, the national bar association, and the leaders of San Carlos University. The Corte Suprema de Justicia oversees the country’s system of civil and criminal courts. The court has thirteen members, who are elected by the Congreso de la República to five-year terms. Potential Corte Suprema members are nominated to a list by a committee drawn from members of the national bar association, educational leaders, and judges.

Political Parties and Factions

Three major political parties, along with many fast-changing smaller ones, have been active in Guatemala since the restoration of civilian rule in 1985, but in the 2003 elections the Gran Alianza Nacional (Grand National Alliance), a coalition of smaller conservative parties, emerged as an important force by winning the presidential election. The center-left Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza (UNE; National Unity of Hope) traces its roots to the progressive 1944–1954 period; the party aims “to be representative of the majority of the population” and to organize a political force that obeys the principles “of pluralism, dialogue, tolerance, equity, and consensus.” The main conservative party in the 1990s was the Frente Republicano Guatemalteco (FRG; Guatemalan Republican Front), founded in 1989 by the former strongman José Ríos Montt (1926–). The Partido de Avanzada Nacional (PAN; National Advancement Party) emerged as a conservative alternative after episodes of political violence involving the FRG in the early 2000s.

Major Events

President Serrano attempted to dissolve the Congreso de la República and the Corte Suprema in 1993, but the Corte de la Constitucionalidad ruled that his actions were illegal and was backed by the Guatemalan military; Serrano was forced to flee to Panama. This crisis led to a new round of constitutional reforms.

Guerrilla violence did not end with the implementation of the constitution and the inauguration of a free electoral process, but peace efforts gradually gained greater momentum. The United Nations became involved in negotiations between the government and leftist rebels, and a series of agreements covering individual processes—such as the resettlement of displaced Guatemalan villagers (numbering at about one million) and the enshrinement of the rights of indigenous Guatemalans—were signed. Finally, in December 1996 the government of Álvaro Arzú (1946–) and a coalition of leftist groups signed a comprehensive set of peace accords, ending thirty-six years of civil war.

Twenty-First Century

The 1996 peace accords did not, however, bring Guatemala complete stability, for the underlying social divisions that had historically caused conflict in Guatemala continue to fester. Inequities in income distribution characterize the Guatemalan economy, with about 56 percent of the population living in poverty; the country remains primarily agricultural and is vulnerable to swings in the price of coffee, its major export. Incidences of political violence, some of them directed against human rights activists, continue, and the country suffers from a high rate of street crime. All these factors, combined with the massive upheaval in the life of rural Guatemala caused by the long civil war, have resulted in large emigrations of poor Guatemalans northward to the United States—which is faced with its own set of challenges in dealing with large numbers of Guatemalan migrants and refugees. Money sent home by Guatemalans living and working in the United States ranks as Guatemala’s top source of income from abroad, exceeding revenues from agriculture and from the large ecotourism sector that is growing as travelers become aware of Guatemala’s tropical rainforests—which are themselves under threat from deforestation. Development and diversification of the Guatemalan economy will be of primary importance in strengthening the country’s political and social institutions in the twenty-first century.

Ember, Melvin, and Carol R. Ember, eds. Countries and Their Cultures . New York: Macmillan, 2001.

Menchú, Rigoberta. I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala . Edited by Elisabeth Burgos-Debray. Translated by Ann Wright. London: Verso, 1984.

U.S. Department of State. “Background Note: Guatemala.” (accessed July 6, 2007).

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Guatemala

Guatemala

The modern republic of Guatemala occupies but a small part of what was the Spanish dominion of that name from the early sixteenth century to the beginning of the nineteenth. The colonial Kingdom of Guatemala included several diverse provinces that were often remote from and resentful toward the commercial and bureaucratic elites of the capital. The 1773 destruction by earthquake of the capital city, Antigua Guatemala, and the establishment of a new capital some twenty-five miles away coincided with the emergence of new economic and political forces that would characterize independent Guatemala.

The fragmentation that occurred with independence in 1821 left the state of Guatemala with boundaries approximating the present-day republic, bounded on the west by Mexico, on the south by the Pacific Ocean, on the east by El Salvador and Honduras, and on the north by Mexico, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea.

From a population of less than a million at the time of independence, Guatemala grew at the rate of about 1.3 percent annually during the nineteenth century, and then at rates between 2 and 3 percent annually during the twentieth century. By 2007 its population was more than 12.5 million. Guatemala has always been ethnically diverse, with a substantial indigenous majority, especially Mayas, who have generally been reported at about 60 percent of the total population during the second half of the twentieth century. Spanish is the first language for 56 percent of the population, an indigenous language is the first language for 44 percent. Careful demographic research has suggested that the indigenous population has been undercounted in modern Guatemalan censuses and that in the twentieth century the Indian population grew somewhat more rapidly than the mestizo (Ladino) population.

Guatemala is third in area (42,042 square miles) among the five Central American states, but it has always been the most populous. It has a population density of about 297 inhabitants per square mile with an annual population growth rate of 2.3 percent. In 2002 43 percent of the population was under age fifteen. The literacy rate was about 70 percent, urban population was 42 percent, and annual per capita gross national income was about $2,400.

INDEPENDENCE TO 1850

Guatemala remained loyal to the Spanish crown throughout the difficult years of the Napoleonic wars and their aftermath. The Spanish Constitution of 1812, which allowed more political participation by the creoles of Guatemala City, paved the way for independence. The repressive ruler Captain General José de Bustamante y Guerra (1811–1818) sought to insulate the Kingdom of Guatemala from the war for independence in neighboring Mexico, but a pro-independence sentiment became more open after the restoration of the constitution in 1820. The fiery Pedro Molina led those favoring independence, and when news arrived of the Mexican Plan of Iguala (a plan engineered by Agustín Iturbide for the independence of New Spain), a council of notables in Guatemala City declared the independence of the kingdom on September 15, 1821. Guatemalan conservatives then succeeded in incorporating Guatemala and the other Central American states within Agustín de Iturbide's Mexican Empire in January 1822. When that empire fell little more than a year later, a Central American congress meeting in Guatemala declared its independence and established the United Provinces of Central America. In this turbulent period, however, the province of El Salvador had separated itself from Guatemala, and the state of Chiapas decided to remain with Mexico, leaving the state of Guatemala with approximately its present territorial configuration. (There would be a number of subsequent minor adjustments to its boundaries, most notably the loss of Soconusco to Mexico.)

As the most populous province, Guatemala played a leading role in the Central American federation. It became embroiled in a bitter civil war (1827–1829) when the federal president, Manuel José Arce, a Salvadoran, intervened in the Guatemalan state government, removing its liberal governor, Juan Barrundia, and replacing him with the conservative Mariano Aycinena. When Aycinena usurped the power of the federal government in 1827, Arce resigned and was succeeded by vice president Mariano Beltranena, a Guatemalan and a kinsman of Aycinena. The civil war especially pitted Guatemala against El Salvador, but in the end liberal forces under Honduran General Francisco Morazán triumphed and dealt vindictively with the conservative Guatemalans, exiling most of the leading figures. Barrundia reclaimed the governorship of Guatemala. He was succeeded by Dr. Mariano Gálvez (1831–1838), who, more than any other individual, established the liberal agenda for nineteenth-century Guatemala.

Guatemala
Population: 12,728,111 (2007 est.)
Area: 42,042 sq mi
Official languages: Spanish and 23 different Amerindian languages
National currency: quetzal (GTQ)
Principal religions: Roman Catholic, approximately 50%; Protestant, approximately 40%; traditional Mayan beliefs influence Christian practice
Ethnicity: mestizo (mixed Amerindian-Spanish) and European heritage, 59.4%; K'iche, 9.1%; Kaqchikel, 8.4%; Mam, 7.9%; Q'eqchi, 6.3%; other Mayan, 8.6%; indigenous non-Mayan, 0.2%; other 0.1% (2001 census)
Capital: Guatemala City (est. pop. 951,000 in 2005)
Other urban centers: Escuintla, Quezaltenango
Principal geographical features: Mountains: Sierra de los Cuchumatanes; Sierra Madre, featuring Tajumulco (13,830 ft) and many other high peaks; many smaller ranges
Rivers: Motagua, Usumacinta
Lakes: Atitlan, Izabal, Petén Itza
Other: El Petén region in the north is a rolling limestone plateau largely covered by rainforest.
Economy: GDP per capita: $5,000 (2006 est.)
Principal products and exports: Agricultural: bananas, cardamom, coffee, cotton, sugar
Manufacturing: chemicals, food processing, furniture, pharmaceuticals, textiles
Mining: oil
Government: Independence from Spain, 1821. Constitution, 1986; suspended for part of 1993, subsequently restored and amended that year. Constitutional parliamentary democracy. The president is popularly elected for a 4-year term, and is both chief of state and head of government. The legislature is a unicameral Congress of the Republic, whose 158 members are popularly elected for 4-year terms. Council of Ministers appointed by the president. 22 departments.
Armed forces: Army: 27,000
Navy: 1,500
Air force: 700
Paramilitary: 19,000 National Police, 2,500 Treasury Police
Reserves: 35,200
Transportation: Rail: 550 mi
Ports: Champerico, Puerto Barrios, San José, Sánto Tomas
Roads: 3,021 mi paved; 5,736 mi unpaved
National airline: Aviateca
Airports: 12 paved runway and 390 unpaved runway airports, international airport in Guatemala City
Media: There are 3 major newspapers, La Hora, Prensa Libre, Siglo Veintiuno. 130 AM and 487 FM radio stations, and 26 television stations.
Literacy and education: Total literacy rate: 69.1%
Nine years of education are compulsory and provided for free, but truancy is common. There are 6 universities, including Universidad de San Carlos.

Morazán moved the federal capital to San Salvador in 1834. Under Gálvez, the state of Guatemala launched major liberal reforms consistent with Morazán's policy against the conservative Creole elite of the Guatemalan capital that had inherited much of the economic and social power of the Spanish colony. Strong anticlerical measures reduced the power of the clergy, and the state auctioned off much of the church's land to encourage more rapid export-led economic development. Cochinea, a crimson dye produced mainly around Antigua and Amatitlán, was the leading export, as the British demand for imports for its growing textile industry tied the Guatemalan economy closely to Belize and England. Gálvez also encouraged immigration, and his friendly policy toward northern Europeans, including a massive land grant for an English colonization scheme, caused opponents to charge that he was more sympathetic to foreign than to national interests. Political and judicial reform, notably the adoption of the Livingston civil and penal codes in 1834, in a misguided attempt to replace the traditional Spanish legal system with a modern, English-based system, brought further opposition from lawyers and others. These reforms had created widespread opposition among both the Guatemala City elite and country people by 1836, when a serious cholera epidemic swept the country.

The government's well-intentioned efforts to control the cholera epidemic aroused the rural population, already aggrieved by the liberal reforms and encouraged by an irate clergy. Under the leadership of José Rafael Carrera, a Ladino from Guatemala City who had settled in Mataquescuintla after the civil war, isolated armed uprisings united into a powerful guerrilla insurgency that brought down the Gálvez government on February 1, 1838. Divisions between the liberals hastened the downfall of Gálvez, and when the successor government—strongly influenced by the more radical liberals José Francisco Barrundia and Pedro Molina—failed to meet the expectations of Carrera and his peasant guerrillas, it, too, fell. Carrera imposed a conservative government under Mariano Rivera Paz, who ruled most of the time between 1839 and 1844 and presided over a strong conservative reaction against the liberalism that had followed independence.

Carrera, meanwhile, supported by much of the conservative clergy, built a strong army. He was the real master of the country from 1839 until his death in 1865. While generally insisting on conservative policy, during the 1840s he trusted neither the liberal nor the conservative elites of the capital and tried to rule by using politicians from both factions. He became president of the State of Guatemala in December 1844, and in March 1847, strongly influenced by both conservative states' rights interests and British interests (represented by diplomat Frederick Chatfield), he established the Republic of Guatemala. The other states soon followed in declaring their absolute independence from the now defunct Central American federation.

Liberal ascendancy in the legislature, however, combined with growing popular resistance, forced Carrera from office and into exile in Chiapas in August 1848. Unable to provide effective government or to quell the rural insurgency, the liberals soon turned power over to the military under Colonel Mariano Paredes. Carrera then returned to highland Guatemala with a military force composed mainly of Indians. He quickly regained control of the country and on August 3, 1849, became commander in chief of the Guatemalan army. He consolidated his power in Guatemala with the unequivocal support of the conservatives while pursuing an aggressive policy against other Central American liberals, an effort that culminated in his stunning military victory over the National Army—composed of liberals from all of the states, but among whom José Francisco Barrundia was highly influential—at La Arada on February 2, 1851. On November 6, 1851, Carrera resumed the presidency and on October 21, 1854, formally became president for life, a virtual monarch with few restrictions on his power.

1850 TO 1900

Although strongly conservative and characterized by the active participation of the clergy in the government and legislature, after 1850 Guatemala adopted more liberal economic policies as it accelerated its dependence on agricultural exports and began to pay more attention to infrastructure development. Coffee replaced cochineal as the principal export, and by the end of the conservative era it amounted to 50 percent of all Guatemalan exports. Until his death in 1865, however, Carrera prevented large-scale alienation of Indian lands for the coffee expansion.

Carrera also had a heavy hand in the affairs of his Central American neighbors, intervening directly in Honduras and El Salvador to maintain governments friendly to Guatemalan interests. In 1856–1857 Guatemala sent the largest number of troops to the National War, a campaign in which Guatemala and the other Central American states combined forces to oust the North American freebooter William Walker from Nicaragua. In 1863, in Carrera's final military adventure, Guatemala put down the rising Gerardo Barrios and restored more conservative rule to El Salvador. By 1865 Guatemala had achieved considerable stability and prosperity, but military repression and dictatorial rule had become characteristic of its government.

General Vicente Cerna (1865–1871) succeeded Carrera. He continued Carrera's conservative rule but was less concerned about protecting Indian land and labor from exploitation by coffee and other producers. Thus, the Cerna administration was a transition—especially in economic and social terms—to the period known as la Reforma Liberal that began in 1871.

Liberal opposition to the conservative dictatorship had been largely driven into exile under Carrera except for the presence of Miguel García Granados in the weak Guatemalan legislature. García Granados came from a prominent capital family, so the government tolerated his eloquent liberal oratory, but he could not rally much support in the otherwise repressive environment of Carrera's Guatemala. After Carrera's death, however, more violent opposition began to emerge, especially from Serapio Cruz, who had expected to succeed Carrera, and from coffee planters and liberals in the populous highlands of western Guatemala. After the death of Cruz in 1870, Justo Rufino Barrios emerged as the military leader of the rebellion and Miguel García Granados finally joined it to form a provisional government in March 1871. The rebels defeated Cerna's army at San Lucas Sacatepéquez on 29 June 29, 1871, and marched into the capital on the following day. García Granados became president, but his close ties to the elite of the capital led to a break with Barrios and other highlanders who wanted more sweeping reforms. In the election of 1873 Barrios won the presidency and became the first of a series of strong liberal dictators.

Barrios emphasized economic growth and courted foreign investment to begin the development of railroads and modern ports while greatly expanding the coffee industry. He began the modernization of Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango and represented the coming to power in Guatemala of the liberal-positivist philosophy that would remain dominant until at least 1944. Barrios promoted strongly anticlerical legislation, suppressed the tithe, abolished the regular orders, expropriated church property, and vastly reduced the number of priests in the country; he also established religious liberty, civil marriage and divorce, and state collection of vital statistics. He launched a public education system at all levels and took theUniversity of San Carlos out of the control of the Church, making it the state university and establishing other secondary and normal schools. His educational reforms, however, benefited primarily the upper and middle sectors of Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango. Most rural Guatemalans continued to have little access to education and often now lost their village priests, who formerly had provided some education to parishioners. His restructuring of the university emphasized professional and technical education at the expense of the humanities and liberal arts, another reflection of positivist thinking.

Coffee exports soared as Barrios encouraged the encroachment of Ladino planters on Indian communal lands and made their labor more accessible to planters. He improved the transportation infrastructure for overseas trade and facilitated the formation of banks and other financial institutions to provide credit for economic development and modernization. New ministries of agriculture, development, and education reflected his emphasis on economic growth as well as the increased role of the state. He attracted foreign immigration and investment as German and U.S. influence increased significantly. His administration also codified the laws and promulgated a new constitution in 1879, under which he won reelection in 1880.

In foreign affairs Barrios played an important role in the neighboring states of El Salvador and Honduras, and he settled differences with Mexico at the cost of giving up Guatemalan claims to Soconusco and other parts of Chiapas. He renewed the Guatemalan claim to Belize, however, repudiating the Wyke-Aycinena treaty of 1859 with Great Britain. He also tried to revive the unionist spirit of Francisco Morazán and to reestablish the Central American federation by means of Guatemalan military power. That effort, however, ended abruptly in 1885, when Salvadoran forces defeated the Guatemalan army at Chalchuapa, where Barrios died in battle.

Barrios established a new coffee elite, whose economic base was centered in the western highlands around Quetzaltenango, reducing the power of the Guatemala City merchant elite that had dominated the country since the late colonial period. At the same time, he greatly accelerated exploitation of the indigenous population and moved Guatemala more rapidly into an export-led economy dependent on foreign markets and investment. Although Barrios was celebrated in Guatemalan history as the reformer who ended the long conservative dictatorships of Rafael Carrera and Vicente Cerna, his own dictatorial rule and strengthening of the military established a pattern for subsequent liberal governments that made repression a characteristic of government in Guatemala extending into the twenty-first century. Barrios's personal wealth increased enormously during his rule, especially in comparison with earlier Guatemalan presidents. In this, too, he set a pattern that many of his successors would emulate.

General Manuel Lisandro Barillas (1885–1892), a political favorite from Quetzaltenango, succeeded Barrios and continued most of his development policies. Barrios's nephew, José María Reyna Barrios, succeeded to the presidency in 1892. When he was assassinated in 1898, another Quetzaltenango liberal, Manuel Estrada Cabrera, came to power and remained in office until 1920, his twenty-two-year rule being the longest uninterrupted presidency in Guatemalan history.

1900 TO 1950

Under Estrada Cabrera the liberal emphasis on economic development surged forward, while the political idealism of earlier liberals all but disappeared. Coffee exports continued to expand, but the most notable economic development was the rise of the United Fruit Company (UFCO), which developed the banana industry in Guatemala's lowlands. Its subsidiary, the International Railways of Central America, completed the railway from Guatemala City to the Caribbean, as well as other lines, and developed Puerto Barrios as Guatemala's leading port. UFCO, with its transport subsidiaries, thus achieved the dominant position not only in banana production but also in Guatemala's internal and external transportation systems. While UFCO gave Guatemala much of the material progress that liberals had advocated since the 1820s, its enormous economic strength, its abuses of its power, its virtual monopoly over Guatemalan overseas transport, and its obviously foreign character made many Guatemalans resentful throughout the first half of the twentieth century.

Despite great economic advancement, the harsh repression, uneven economic gains, and corrupt government under Estrada Cabrera exposed his regime to rising opposition. His mental deterioration after 1918 contributed to the success of a plot that forced him from office in April 1920. The new Unionist Party took power under the presidency of a leading businessman, Carlos Herrera, but in 1921 that government fell and Liberal Party generals José María Orellana (1921–1926) and Lázaro Chacón (1926–1930) ruled Guatemala for the remainder of the decade.

Despite their military appearance, the governments of the 1920s were more open and democratic than the Estrada Cabrera dictatorship that preceded them. For the most part, political participation was limited to rivalry among different segments of the elite, but labor unions and leftist parties, although not free from some repression, began to organize and gain some adherents. There was also continued economic growth, although most rural Guatemalans saw little of it, and as coffee and other agricultural exports expanded along with a more rapidly rising population, there began to be shortages of land for food production in some areas. The coffee elite retained strong control through alliance with the military, and fear of the major revolution taking place in adjacent Mexico kept them on guard against any genuine transfer of political power from the elite to the middle or working classes.

The Great Depression sharply arrested the modest progress of the 1920s. The value of coffee exports plummeted from $34 million in 1927 to $9.3 million in 1932. By 1931 there were serious economic and social problems arising from declining exports and insufficient attention to subsistence agriculture. President Chacón became gravely ill, and upon his death in December 1930 the Assembly designated a civilian, Baudilio Palma, to succeed him. Palma served only four days, however, before a military coup replaced him with General Manuel Orellana on December 16. In an effort to restore at least a semblance of constitutional government, however, Orellana resigned on January 2, 1931, turning the office over to José María Reina Andrade, who had been one of Estrada Cabrera's ministers and was now serving as president of the Assembly. Reina Andrade served until a pro forma election could be held; the Liberal Party candidate General Jorge Ubico y Castañeda was overwhelmingly elected and took office on February 14, 1931.

Voter abstention in Guatemalan elections, 1944–2003
Year Eligible Voters Votes Percent Abstention Votes for Winning Candidate % of Eligible Votes for Winning Candidate
Source: Adapted from Julio Castellanos Cambranes, "Origins of the Crisis of the Established Order in Guatemala," trans. David O. Wise, in Central America: Crisis and Adaptation, ed. Steve C. Ropp and James A. Morris (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984), p. 136; Centroamérica en Cifras (San José, Costa Rica: FLASCO, 2002), pp. 190-191; Marco Fonseca, "The Guatemalan Elections and the Challenges of Peace and Human Development," Focal Point (Canadian Foundation for the Americas) 2, no. 11 (November-December 2003): 1-3.
1944310,000296,2004.5255,70082.5
1950583,300407,50031.1266,80045.7
1958736,400492,30033.1191,00025.9
1966944,200531,30043.7209,40022.2
19701,190,500640,70046.2251,10021.1
19741,568,700727,87653.6298,95319.1
19852,753,5721,907,77130.7648,68123.6
19903,204,9551,808,71843.6375,11911.7
19953,710,6811,737,03353.2565,39315.2
19994,458,7442,397,21246.21,045,82023.5
20035,073,2822,937,16942.1921,23318.2
Table 1

Ubico built a strong political machine based not only on his military command but also on close alliance with the giant UFCO and with German coffee interests, at least until the outbreak of World War II, when he quickly abandoned his pro-German stance and made Guatemala the first Latin American country to join the United States in declaring war against Germany. He began this regime with a strong crackdown on communist and other leftist labor and political groups, assuring the elite that he was protecting them from the kind of revolution that was occurring in Mexico or the brief communist uprising that had occurred in El Salvador in January 1932. A ruthless purge of these opposition political parties rendered them impotent during Ubico's thirteen-year rule as their leaders suffered execution or exile. Ubico also strongly supported the system of ensuring the coffee planters an adequate supply of cheap Indian labor for their harvests. He abolished debt peonage in 1934, but replaced it with a system based on a vagrancy law that required the peasants to work on the coffee farms in a system resembling the colonial repartimiento. It also provided workers for Ubico's ambitious road-building program. He reduced Indian autonomy by a new system of municipal government that replaced the Indian mayors with presidential appointees.

THE GUATEMALAN REVOLUTION

Opposition to the dictatorship began to surface during World War II. A strong anti-Fascist U.S. propaganda program attacking antidemocratic regimes, although directed against the Axis powers, had the effect of undermining the Ubico dictatorship in Guatemala. In addition, Ubico's expropriation of German-owned property in collaboration with the United States, although applauded by many Guatemalans who benefited by acquiring those properties and who had found the German "gringos" overbearing, nevertheless cost Ubico the support of a significant part of the coffee elite and resulted in a decline in Guatemalan coffee production. Moreover, wartime inflation hit the middle class hard. It was from this class, especially in the capital, that the most vocal opposition came, as university students began to stage demonstrations against the regime.

Opposition from students and intellectuals and other middle-class interests in the capital began to appear in 1942. After some street violence, Ubico, in ill health, stepped down on July 1, 1944, and turned power over to a loyal military junta. The Congress subsequently elected the head of the junta, General Federico Ponce Vaides, as provisional president. When Ponce could not check the rising opposition, a band of civilians and middle-grade military officers forced the downfall of the regime on October 20, 1944. Major Francisco Arana, Captain Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, and a civilian, Jorge Toriello, formed a junta that presided over the country until the inauguration of the new president, elected in December 1944. In the meantime, a constituent assembly wrote a modern constitution that codified the ideals of the Guatemalan Revolution of 1944.

In the last years of Ubico's rule, in the more complex Guatemalan socioeconomic environment that the liberal economic growth had fostered, several new political parties representing disgruntled elite as well as middle-class and working-class interests formed underground. Most of these parties agreed on the candidacy of Juan José Arévalo, a young philosophy professor who had left Guatemala in protest against the Ubico dictatorship in 1934, soon after receiving his doctorate in Argentina. He had returned to Argentina and spent little of his adult life in Guatemala, but he had established a reputation as a learned man and one who had broken with Ubico. He won the 1944 presidential election in a landslide and began a six-year term dedicated to reforms that reflected both his Argentine experience and some obvious influence from the Mexican Revolution.

As had been the case in Mexico, the Guatemalan Revolution called for a return to the more idealistic liberalism of the early nineteenth century. It emphasized broader political participation, particularly of the middle and working classes, and was therefore friendly to renewed labor organization and a broad spectrum of political parties. It emphasized constitutional government, and the Constitution of 1945 was a twentieth-century charter that included many of the earlier liberal political guarantees while adding substantial social guarantees drawn from the Mexican Constitution of 1917. No reelection of the president and popular suffrage were important principles in reaction to the practice of continuismo under Estrada Cabrera and Ubico. Its strong support of labor required implementation of a modern labor code. There was also a hint of anticlericalism, bringing the opposition of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, which had begun to enjoy something of a rapprochement with the state under Ubico. The Church would become one of the most important opponents of the revolutionary governments of Arévalo and Arbenz.

Arévalo idealistically described his ideology as "spiritual socialism." Opponents railed against the revolutionary government as communist, but more accurately it was an attempt to encourage enlightened capitalism in Guatemala with adequate provision for social justice and a healthier distribution of wealth. Its duration under Arévalo (1945–1950) and his successor, Jacobo Arbenz (1951–1954), nevertheless represented a revolution in the sense of challenging the exclusive power of the coffee and military elites that had ruled since 1871. The phrase "Ten Years of Spring" has become common among those who have written on the period to reflect the emphasis on popular participation and social benefits in comparison with the periods both before and after.

Labor especially benefited from the revolution. The assembly abolished the vagrancy law of 1934. The new labor code provided a broad range of progressive rights to workers and their unions, but tangible benefits were much greater for urban than for rural workers. Marxists were in the vanguard of urban labor unions. Although Arévalo tolerated them, he made it clear that he was not their leader as he resisted Marxist attempts to establish a formal Communist Party. Arévalo, in fact, was one of a number of noncommunist social democratic leaders in the Caribbean region after World War II who represented what was often called the "democratic Left" in attempting to bring the emerging middle classes into more active participation in government and to provide a better distribution of wealth in their countries. Other notable members of this generation included José Figueres of Costa Rica, Juan Bosch of the Dominican Republic, and Rómulo Betancourt of Venezuela.

THE ARBENZ PRESIDENCY

A struggle over succession in the election of 1950 moved Guatemala more sharply to the left and led ultimately to the downfall of the revolution. Rivals for the presidency were the two military leaders of the 1944 revolt, Francisco Arana and Jacobo Arbenz. The more conservative Arana commanded the army and had protected the revolution by putting down a score of attempted coups. Arbenz, more to the left, was minister of defense and closer to Arévalo. When Arévalo and Arbenz suspected Arana of plotting a coup of his own, the assassination of Arana at Amatitlán in July 1949 paved the way for Arbenz's easy victory in the 1950 election. But Arana's murder also triggered the most serious military coup attempt of Arévalo's administration. The growth of organized labor played a significant role here as a general strike in support of the government contributed to the coup's failure. In the election, Arbenz defeated General Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes, Ubico's minister of public works, who felt forced to flee the country in the face of rising violence during the election campaign.

Arbenz's election shifted the revolution markedly toward the left, especially with his strong rhetoric against UFCO and his talk of land reform. UFCO had responded to the threat with an active public relations campaign that marshaled U.S. public and government opposition to the Arbenz administration. Arbenz, much influenced by his wife, María Christina Vilanova de Arbenz, played into the hands of those opposing him by allowing communists openly to organize a party and by establishing a close relationship with the Marxist labor unions. The Guatemalan communist newspaper, Octubre, added fuel to the fire with its blatantly pro-Soviet and Marxist reporting. All this coincided with the election to the U.S. presidency of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who appointed the zealous anticommunist John Foster Dulles as secretary of state.

Arbenz's agrarian reform act of June 27, 1952, Decree 900, laid the foundation for a program of expropriation of large landholdings that seemed to be aimed especially at UFCO, although it focused primarily on distributing public lands. Virtually no land in the highlands was touched by the act. Only 15 percent of the 650,000 acres owned by UFCO was marked for expropriation, but there was immediately a major dispute over Guatemalan compensation for this land, the government offering little more than $600,000 and the company claiming a value of almost $16 million.

The United States launched a diplomatic offensive against the Arbenz government in 1953, followed by a covert scheme of the Central Intelligence Agency to overthrow the regime in 1954 through its support of a small Guatemalan exile force commanded by Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas. Opposition to Arbenz within Guatemala was on the rise, although he still enjoyed wide popularity among urban labor and some elements of the middle class, despite his resort to widespread repression of opponents after 1953. Success of the CIA scheme, however, depended on the refusal of the Guatemalan army to defend the Arbenz regime. The army thus remained the arbiter of Guatemalan politics, as it had been since the 1840s, but in this case it was strongly supported by the agricultural and commercial elite and the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

THE 1960S

The overthrow of Arbenz marked the beginning of one of the darkest periods in Guatemalan history, as a strong reaction against the revolutionary reforms under the presidency of Castillo Armas (1954–1957) resulted in the suppression of the labor movement and the repeal or non-enforcement of much of the social reform legislation, including agrarian reform. With strong U.S. backing, Castillo Armas and his National Democratic Movement (MDN) set the tone for the next thirty years of military rule. The communists and other leftists, to some degree united in the Guatemalan Labor Party (PGT), were outlawed and went underground. Divisions among the military, however, hindered the stability that might have been expected. After Castillo Armas was assassinated in July 1957, intense rivalry among the various military factions was accompanied by considerable corruption. Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes finally emerged triumphant with hisNational Redemption Party in the election of 1958. Ydígoras served until 1963.

Ydígoras attempted to restore the traditional Liberal Party oligarchy—greatly expanded with new agricultural and industrial enterprises resulting from large-scale U.S. investment encouraged by the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations—while paying lip service to the middle-class and working-class interests stimulated by the Arévalo and Arbenz policies. He cooperated in the establishment of the Central American Common Market (CACM), which served the Guatemalan economy well. Less repressive than Castillo Armas, Ydígoras ran into difficulty when the Cuban Revolution alarmed right-wing Guatemalans. Ydígoras personally led the troops in putting down a Cuban-supported revolt in November 1960, but remnants of those insurgents escaped into the hills of eastern Guatemala, organized the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR), and launched a guerrilla war that continued into the 1990s. This activity, together with Ydígoras's apparent willingness to allow Arévalo's candidacy in the approaching 1963 presidential election, led to his overthrow by Colonel Enrique Peralta Azurdia, who ruled the country from 1963 to 1966.

Peralta attempted to create a broader base of support for his Democratic Institutional Party (PID), which he compared to the corporate Mexican Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). He also intensified the anticommunism campaign and became heavily involved in efforts to suppress the leftist guerrillas. Peralta's Constitution of 1965 provided a framework for cooperation between the PID and Mario Sandoval Alarcón's National Liberation Movement (MLN)—successor to Castillo Armas's MDN—on the right and the Revolutionary Party (PR)—successor to Arévalo's Revolutionary Action Party (PAR)—on the moderate left. Out of this arrangement came a relatively free election, although it was restricted to those three parties. Violence soared as right-wing death squads murdered labor and leftist leaders and the guerrillas stepped up their campaign against government forces.

Not long before the election, the PR candidate, Mario Méndez Montenegro, was probably assassinated (although his death appeared to be a suicide). His brother, Julio César Méndez Montenegro, succeeded him as the PR candidate and with strong reformist support won the election. Widespread popular demonstrations were expected if he were not allowed to take office. The PID accepted his presidency after Méndez gave secret assurance that the army leaders would retain their power, thereby precluding any real change. The repression thus continued, with strong U.S. counterinsurgency support in an effort to defeat the guerrillas, who were gaining adherents in the countryside although they controlled relatively little territory. A campaign of calculated terror led by Colonel Carlos Arana Osorio spread violence and lack of respect for human rights over the land as the army murdered thousands of people suspected of aiding the guerrillas. While Méndez enjoyed the distinction of completing his four-year term as the only civilian president of Guatemala between 1950 and 1985, he was unable to change the basic pattern of military rule and growing violations of human rights.

The FAR, led by Luis Turcios Lima until his death in a car accident in 1966, was the principal guerrilla group, but in 1965 it divided, with Marco Antonio Yon Sosa breaking away to form the November 13 Revolutionary Movement (MR-13). Yon Sosa died in a clash with Mexican troops in 1970, but both groups continued to harass the army. Some believed the army would not completely destroy the guerrillas because their presence justified continued high appropriations and other benefits for the military. In the 1970s two new guerrilla groups emerged: the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP), which tended to replace the FAR, especially in the western highlands where it tried to mobilize the indigenous peoples, and the Organization of the People in Arms (OPRA).

1970–1985

Arana Osorio, the PID candidate in 1970, campaigned openly on an anticommunist platform that promised more repression. With the PR discredited, the Guatemalan Christian Democratic Democracy party (DCG) became the principal legal opposition to the military but was still too weak to have much of a chance; the PID easily won a controlled election in which fewer than half the registered voters participated. In the 1974 election General Kjell Laugerud continued PID domination of the country but faced a stiff challenge from a DCG-led coalition that nominated a conservative military officer, General Efraín Ríos Montt. Confronted with obvious and widespread electoral fraud, the DCG claimed to have won, but the official results gave Laugerud the victory. Laugerud, the son of a Norwegian immigrant, had been Arana's chief of staff. He moderated the repressive appearance of the previous administration somewhat, although it remained a military dictatorship. There was some increase in labor union organization and opposition political activity, allowing the Christian Democrats in particular to gain ground. A devastating earthquake in February 1976 created special problems for his administration, but he met the opposition's political activities with new repressive tactics.

In 1978 General Romeo Lucas García of the PID succeeded to the presidency in another fraudulent election in which voter abstention reached new heights (see Table 1). Although by the early 1970s the expanding population and increased agricultural export production were contributing to rising poverty in Guatemala, the economy also made impressive gains owing to diversification of agricultural export production and industrial expansion. In Guatemala City business continued to expand and the growing middle class enjoyed affluence despite serious inflation. The petroleum crisis of the 1970s was less damaging to Guatemala than to many other Latin American states because of the exploitation of small but significant oil reserves in the Petén.

The military elite had begun to enter the economy in a major way. Not only did the generals receive enormous salaries when they served as president, but they used their position to acquire private companies, large landholdings, and monopolistic concessions. They established their own bank (Banco del Ejército) as another institutional base for their economic interests. The corruption associated with this economic expansion and the wealth of these military officers reached obscene proportions in a country beset with staggering poverty among the majority of its population. Combined with the earthquake, the general downturn in the international economy had by the early 1980s caused falling prices for Guatemalan coffee, cotton, and sugar exports, while domestic inflation increased. Guatemala's trade deficit rose from $63 million in 1980 to $409 million in 1981.

Meanwhile, Lucas and the right-wing death squads launched a brutal policy of genocide against indigenous peoples suspected of supporting or joining the guerrillas, as Guatemala became notorious for its human rights violations. As the generals continued to seize large tracts of land, thousands of Indians fled to large refugee camps in Chiapas. All this focused unfavorable attention on Guatemala and damaged the important tourist trade. President Jimmy Carter sought to distance the United States from the Guatemalan military, ending official military aid altogether. Yet Carter's human rights policy only hardened the resolve of the Guatemalan officers to deal violently with the Left and even with moderate progressives such as the Christian Democrats. Guatemala simply made up for a partial cutoff of U.S. arms sales with arms and advisers from Israel. Terror and assassination took a horrifying toll among labor leaders and University of San Carlos students and faculty. Meanwhile, the general economic level of the population worsened. Following the 1982 rigged election of another PID general, Ángel Aníbal Guevara, several younger officers, supported by elements in both the extreme right-wing MLN and the DCG, engineered a coup that prevented him from taking office, ousting Lucas during the last days of his term and replacing him with a junta headed by General Ríos Montt. The elevation of Ríos Montt to the presidency reflected not only an end to the long domination by the PID but also the phenomenal rise of evangelical Protestantism in Guatemala, for General Ríos Montt was a minister of the California-based evangelical Church of the Word. Evangelical Protestantism had grown remarkably since about 1960, and an estimated 20 percent of Guatemala's population were Protestants by 1980. In contrast to the new Catholic evangelism in the country, often associated with "liberation theology" and the political Left, most of the Protestants were conservative and identified with pro-U.S. policies.

Ríos Montt's brief presidency served as a transition away from direct military rule. Superficially there was a noticeable effort to curb corruption and to encourage a higher degree of ethics in government. More impressive was the decline of death-squad activities and the restoration of security and peace in the central highlands. Political assassinations in the cities virtually ceased and the decline of tourism, to which the violence had contributed, was reversed for a time. Yet the economic and military strength of the powerful generals who had ruled the country since 1954 could not be easily turned back. Ríos Montt was in no sense sympathetic to leftist interests. He and the officers he represented were concerned with preserving the privileged position of the military and perceived that military abuses and corruption threatened the institution. In the countryside, Ríos Montt stepped up efforts to defeat the guerrillas. Massacres of Indian communities continued, as did the flow of refugees into Mexico. His government inaugurated a system of civil patrols, requiring Indians to serve, usually without firearms, as guardians against the guerrillas. Those who refused were killed. Ríos Montt also suspended the constitution, restricted labor unions, and prohibited the functioning of political parties in his effort to maintain order. In response, the leftists united in the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca, URNG), an umbrella organization for the Guatemalan Labor Party (PGT), FAR, EGP, and OPRA.

Ríos Montt's challenge to the military oligarchy, his constant moralistic preaching, the excessively large role of North American Protestants in his advisory councils, the imposition of a sales tax, and his meddling with powerful economic interests ensured that his regime was short-lived. In August 1983 another coup replaced him with defense minister General Óscar Humberto Mejía Victores. Cynicism, corruption, and anticommunismwere themost conspicuous characteristics of the Mejía government, with commitment to the same neoliberal policies on behalf of the elites that had characterized Guatemalan governments since 1954. However, concerned over their image and dismayed at their failure to manage the complex economic and social problems besetting the country, the military officers decided to turn the government over to civilians. International pressure from human rights activists, a sharp decline in tourism, falling coffee prices, and the military government's inability to solve Guatemala's severe economic problems all contributed to the army's decision to permit a free election and to turn over the presidency to a civilian.

Elections for a constitutional convention on July 1, 1984, again reflected widespread voter apathy, despite the participation of seventeen political parties. Under the resulting 1985 constitution, a free election was held and Guatemala was hailed for its "conversion" to civilian democracy after some three decades of military domination. A multitude of political parties ranging from extreme right to center vied for the presidency, while the left remained outside the legal political spectrum. A runoff between the top contenders resulted in the victory of a center-right and U.S.-backed Christian Democrat, Vinicio Cerezo. Popular participation in the election surged upward after years of declining voter turnout under the military regimes. A wave of optimism accompanied Cerezo's inauguration in January 1986, even though it was understood that he was strictly limited in his approach to the state's socioeconomic problems by the ultimate authority of the army.

1986–2007

Cerezo achieved some foreign policy successes as he established himself as a leader in the Central American peace process in alliance with Costa Rican president Óscar Arias. These efforts helped to end Nicaragua's civil war and bring about a free election there in 1990, opened talks between the governments and guerrillas in El Salvador and Guatemala, and laid the foundations for the Central American Parliament and a Central American summit conference to foster greater economic and political integration of the isthmus. Cerezo also moved toward resolution of Guatemala's long-smoldering dispute over sovereignty in neighboring Belize.

In domestic affairs, however, Cerezo ran into formidable obstacles. The new constitution emphasized open political dialogue and freedom of the press, yet the real power remained with the military. Furthermore, Cerezo not only failed to solve serious socioeconomic ills but saw them worsen considerably. During his administration labor and peasant participation in the political process remained weak. The deteriorating economy contributed to an increase in the level of violence, not only from the guerrillas but also from right-wing death squads, the military, personal vendettas, and rising common crime. Declining prices for Guatemalan exports, especially coffee, exacerbated the economic decline until a freeze in Brazil reversed the downward trend. The heavy foreign debt made balancing the budget impossible, especially when the government expanded the bureaucracy and appeared to tolerate widespread corruption and scandal.

Devaluation of the currency contributed to greater poverty during Cerezo's administration as inflation outran wages. Strikes and other work stoppages, especially in the public sector, seriously damaged government services. The Christian Democrats had appealed to middle-class and lower-class voters with promises of more social and economic benefits, but Cerezo's government carefully catered more to business interests, the military, and U.S. and international banking interests regarding the debt. Although it refused to turn over as much of the national resources to private ownership as U.S. advisers recommended, it privatized the national airline, Aviateca, and generally pursued conservative austerity programs in which the gap between rich and poor widened without reducing the debt significantly.

Ineligible for reelection (a legacy of the 1944 reaction to long dictatorships of the past), Cerezo left office in 1991. Popular rejection of his Christian Democratic administration was obvious when the DCG received but a small minority of the popular vote in the November 1990 election. In a runoff between two conservative candidates on January 6, 1991, Jorge Serrano Elías won in a landslide, defeating newspaper editor Jorge Carpio Nicolle by a two-to-one majority. Serrano, of the relatively unknown Solidarity Action Movement (MAS), gained many votes from those supporting Ríos Montt, who had been ruled ineligible because of the constitutional ban on candidates who had participated in a military revolt. A born-again Christian like Ríos Montt, Serrano became the first Protestant elected president in Latin American history. He promised to establish a social pact involving business, government, and labor. Voter apathy was again high, however, with 44 percent of the 3.2 million registered voters refusing to cast ballots in the November election and 54 percent abstaining in the runoff.

Serrano was careful not to antagonize the military, but as violence rose from both left and right, there was growing pessimism about his chances for success. In September 1991 a devastating earthquake, killing fifty-three and leaving thirty thousand homeless, aggravated the socioeconomic problems. Serrano, an industrial engineer, pursued neoliberal economic policies and was more acceptable to the conservative power structure than Cerezo, but was unable to cope with the rising opposition. In May 1993 he seized dictatorial power in what some called a "self-coup," disbanding the Congress and all political parties. Massive protests followed and the Congress refused to disband. When the army failed to back Serrano, he resigned on June 1. Congress chose Ramiro de León Carpio, the human rights ombudsman, as interim president. The military accepted this but insisted on their right to choose the minister of defense, making clear that the army still held ultimate authority in Guatemala. The military was suspected in the subsequent assassination of León Carpio's cousin, Jorge Carpio, the former presidential candidate.

Shifting political alliances brought new political coalitions in the 1990s that reduced the DCG and the Union of the National Center (UCN) to minor party status. Under the leadership of Álvaro Arzú, the neoliberal National Advancement Party (PAN) won the support of several center-right parties to form a congressional majority in 1995. Arzú had been popular as mayor of Guatemala City and was foreign minister under Serrano until he resigned in protest against Serrano's efforts to normalize relations with Belize. More extreme right-wing parties, meanwhile, joined with Ríos Montt and his Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG). Once again the courts denied Ríos Montt's eligibility to run for president, so Alfonso Portillo took his place as the FRG candidate in the November 1995 election. In a runoff the following January, Arzú narrowly defeated Portillo to become the new president. Voter abstention had again become serious as only about a third of the registered voters participated in this election.

Arzú's government followed strongly neoliberal policies with significant economic growth and the rejuvenation of the Central American Common Market, but his principal achievement was the conclusion of agreements with the guerrillas to end Guatemala's long civil war. The formal peace accord was signed in Guatemala City on December 29, 1996, although implementation of its provisions dragged on for years. The army accepted the accords along with dismissal of military officers accused of human rights violations. Yet the 1998 assassination of Bishop Juan Gerardi, who had published a detailed account of the atrocities committed during the thirty-six-year civil war and the failure of the government to stem the continued violence, highlighted the persistence of human rights abuses.

As Guatemala entered the twenty-first century violence and human rights abuses still haunted the country. Indigenous Guatemalans, however, had notably increased their representation in the government and had formed their own political party, the National Civic Political Forum of Mayan Unity and Fraternity (EPUM). It was the compassionate voice of an indigenous Quiché woman, Rigoberta Menchú, that brought the plight of the Guatemalan people to worldwide attention, increasing international pressure on the Guatemalan government to end the conflict by negotiating with the rebels. Menchú received the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize "in recognition of her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation." Menchú led efforts to prosecute those guilty of human-rights abuses and in 2007 she would declare her candidacy for the presidency of Guatemala.

In 1999 Portillo was again the candidate of the FRG and with Ríos Montt's backing defeated Guatemala City mayor Óscar Berger (PAN), winning 68 percent of the vote in the December 26 runoff and taking office in January 2000. Despite economic growth, the violence and widespread poverty in the country contributed to increased emigration to Mexico and the United States. Remittances to relatives remaining in Guatemala came to be a major source of foreign exchange for the country, second only to coffee export income. During Portillo's administration Guatemala also became a major clandestine exporter of illegal drugs to the United States. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency repeatedly claimed that Guatemala was a transfer point for Colombian heroin and cocaine, and Portillo agreed to allow U.S. military and other special agents to operate within Guatemala against the drug dealers.

Reports of corruption eroded support for Portillo, especially a legislative report in 2001 known as Guategate that resulted in twenty-four indictments, including one against Ríos Montt. Although the courts later exonerated Ríos Montt, there continued to be charges of government corruption and financial mismanagement. Attention to these problems as at least temporarily diverted by the visit of Pope John Paul II to Guatemala in July 2002, when he canonized the seventeenth-century friar, Pedro de San José Betancur, the only Central American ever to achieve sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.

The FRG had little credibility left by the November 2003 election, but the Court of Constitutionality had finally ruled that Ríos Montt could be a candidate for the presidency. He was unable, however, to overcome the failing reputation of his FRG party and he finished well behind óscar Berger of the rightist coalition Grand National Alliance (GANA) and Álvaro Colom of the leftist coalition National Unity of Hope (UNE). In the December runoff, Berger won with 54 percent of the votes and took office on January 14, 2004. Berger continued the neoliberal agenda and promised greater productivity and a pledge to increase employment, emphasizing the need to improve the lot of Guatemala's indigenous majority. He recognized former governments' responsibility for much of the country's violence when he ordered compensation to peasants for lands and lives lost during the civil war, and he named Rigoberta Menchú to supervise implementation of the 1996 peace accords. He also reduced the size of the army, shifting some military personnel to the National Police in an effort to attack the continuing high rates of murder, violence against women, kidnappings, and violations of civil rights.

Rising coffee prices by 2005 and more diversification in manufacturing and agriculture created new jobs and more economic activity. There were improvements, too, in public health, thanks especially to considerable aid from the Cuban government, which equipped six new hospitals in Guatemala and sent physicians and other medical personnel to staff them. Cuba also provided scholarships for hundreds of Guatemalans to study medicine in Havana. The infant mortality rate in Guatemala dropped sharply and the occurrences of many epidemic diseases was significantly reduced. The neoliberal policies of the government, while controversial, moved Guatemala into a globalized economy, while the traditional dominance of the military in Guatemalan history appeared to be diminishing.

See alsoArana, Francisco J; Arana Osorio, Carlos; Arbenz Guzmán, Jacobo; Arce, Manuel José; Arévalo Bermejo, Juan José; Aycinena, Mariano de; Barrundia, José Francisco; Bustamante y Guerra, José; Carrera, José Rafael; Castillo Armas, Carlos; Central America; Central American Common Market (CACM); Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); Cerezo Arévalo, Marco Vinicio; Cerna, Vicente; Chacón, Lázaro; Cruz, Serapio; Estrada Cabrera, Manuel; Galván Rivera, Mariano; García Granados, Miguel; Guatemala, Audiencia of; Iturbide, Agustín de; Lucas García, Fernando Romeo; Mejía Victores, Oscar Humberto; Menchú Tum, Rigoberta; Méndez Montenegro, Julio César; Molina, Pedro; Morazán, Francisco; North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); Orellana, José María; Paredes, Mariano; Peralta Azurdia, Enrique; Plan of Iguala; Reyna Barrios, José María; Ríos Montt, José Efraín; Serrano Elías, Jorge Antonio; Ubico y Castañeda, Jorge; United Fruit Company; Wyke-Aycinena Treaty (1859); Ydígoras Fuentes, Miguel; Yon Sosa, Marco Antonio.

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                                Ralph Lee Woodward Jr.

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Guatemala

Guatemala

  • Area: 42,042 sq mi (108,890 sq km) / World Rank: 106
  • Location: Northern and Western Hemispheres in Central America, south of Mexico, west of Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador, coastlines on the Pacific Ocean in the south and the Caribbean Sea in the east
  • Coordinates: 15°30′N, 90°15′W
  • Borders: 1,046 mi (1,687km) / Belize, 165 mi (266 km); El Salvador, 126 mi (203 km); Honduras, 159 mi (256 km); Mexico, 597 mi (962 km).
  • Coastline: 205 mi (330 km)
  • Territorial Seas: 12 NM
  • Highest Point: Tajumulco Volcano, 13,830 ft (4,211 m)
  • Lowest Point: Sea level
  • Longest Distances: 284 mi (457 km) NNW-SSE / 266 mi (428 km) ENE-WSW
  • Longest River: Usumacinta River, 690 mi (1110 km).
  • Largest Lake: Lake Izabal, 324 sq mi (817sq km)
  • Natural Hazards: earthquakes, volcanoes, Caribbean hurricanes
  • Population: 12,974,361 (July 2001 est.) / World Rank: 63
  • Capital City: Guatemala City, located in a highland valley south of the Sierra de Las Minas Mountains in the southeastern portion of the country
  • Largest City: Guatemala City, 2,907,500 (2002 est.)

OVERVIEW

While Guatemala is slightly smaller in area than the state of Tennessee, it features great variety in climate and landforms. Much of the country is comprised of highlands. There are plateaus and hills where the great majority of people live, and also many high mountains and volcanoes. The mountain systems are more related to those of the West Indies than to those of North and South America, running east-west rather than north-south. In the north is the lowland region called El Petén.

Drainage to the Caribbean predominates, although there are many short and unnavigable rivers that flow to the Pacific from the southern highlands. Guatemala is on the Caribbean Tectonic Plate, near the boundaries with the Cocos and the Caribbean Plates, and as a consequence earthquakes and volcanism are frequent and sometimes destructive.

MOUNTAINS AND HILLS

Mountains

The Sierra Madre is a system of mountains and high plateaus extending from Mexico through Guatemala to El Salvador and Honduras with more than 30 volcanoes, some still active, dotting the southern escarpment. The highest four are Tajumulco, the highest peak in the country at 13,830 ft (4,211 m) above sea level, Tacana (13,300 ft / 4,053 m), Fuego (12,579 ft / 3,839 m), and Agua (12,307 ft / 3,751 m).

Many smaller ranges make up the Sierra Madre or branch off from it. The Sierra de Chuacús branches due east from the Sierra Madre in the central part of the country. East-north-east of these mountains lie the Sierra de las Minas and the Mico Mountains. Together, these three chains extend across the entire country, making north to south travel difficult.

The Sierra de los Cuchumatanes, a great limestone massif, enters Guatemala from Mexico in the northwest. The height of the Cuchumatanes ranges between 9,000 and 11,000 ft (2,743 and 3,352 m). To the east, but separated from the Cuchumatanes by the valley of the Salinas River, lies the Sierra de Chama. Still farther east and extending nearly to Amatique Bay lies the Sierra de Santa Cruz, just north of the Polochic River-Lake Izabal lowland.

Plateaus

The vast area of El Petén, comprising about one-third of the national territory, extends to the north of the mountain ranges into the Yucatan Peninsula. It is a rolling limestone plateau, between 500 and 700 ft (152 and 213 m) above sea level, covered with dense tropical rain-forest, occasionally interspersed with savannas. The soils are relatively poor for agriculture.

There are other, smaller, plateaus among the mountains in the south. Many are lava plateaus, and can be as high as 8,000 ft (2,438 m) above sea level in the western section of the Sierra Madre.

Canyons

The lava plateaus and ash-filled basins of the mountains are often separated by deep ravines difficult to cross even on foot. Rivers falling abruptly from the mountains have cut these canyons out of the soft volcanic soil. Pockets of dense population are often isolated from one another by these ravines.

INLAND WATERWAYS

Lakes

There are two important lakes of volcanic origin in the Sierra Madre highlands. Lake Atitlán is said to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. The volcanoes Atitlán, San Pedro, and Toliman line its shores. The lake, over 1,000 ft (304 m) deep in places, receives a number of rivers, but its drainage is underground. Lake Amatitlán, just south of Guatemala City, is smaller and less spectacular. Steam rises from this warm-water lake, and medicinal sulfur springs are found along the banks. The lake has its outlet in the Michatoya River.

In the east is Lake Izabal, the largest lake in the country (27 mi / 43 km long, 12 mi / 19 km wide). It empties into the Caribbean through the Dulce River. Lake Petén Itzá is in the north. It is 15 mi long, 2 mi wide, and about 165 ft (50 m) deep, and has no visible outlet because its drainage is underground.

Rivers

Eighteen principal, though relatively short, rivers flow from the mountains to the Pacific Ocean. They are navigable only for short distances in small boats, but they have great potential for the production of hydroelectric power and, in fact, serve to supply the major portion of electric power available in the country.

The Motagua River rises in the Sierra de Chuacús and flows east for about 250 mi (402 km) until it empties into the Gulf of Honduras. On the last few miles of its course it serves as the boundary between Guatemala and Honduras. It is navigable for the last 120 mi (193 km) of its length, and receives many tributaries.

The Polochic River rises in Alta Verapaz and flows west, emptying into Lake Izabal, the largest lake in the country. The outlet of Lake Izabal is the Dulce River, which flows into Amatique Bay. Not far to the north is the Sarstún River. It serves, in the latter part of its course, as the boundary between Belize and Guatemala and links the El Petén region with the coast.

Further to the north is the Usumacinta River basin, which covers most of the El Petén region and some of the surrounding area. The Usumacinta flows northeast along the Mexican border before continuing into that country. Major tributaries include the Salinas River, the Pasión River, and the San Pedro River. The Belize River and the Azul River both rise in El Petén and empty into the Caribbean.

Wetlands

Wet lagoons filled with mangrove swamps lie just inland from the sandy Pacific shore. The Chiquimulilla Canal, which runs 70 mi (112 km) from the port of San Jose to the Salvadorean border, is part of the coastal lagoon but has been dredged to allow river traffic.

The swampy Polochic River-Lake Izabal lowland lies north of the Sierra de las Minas and the Mico Mountains and is separated from the Motagua River valley by them.

THE COAST, ISLANDS, AND THE OCEAN

The Pacific Coast

Guatemala's Pacific coast is straight and open, with no natural harbors and relatively shallow offshore waters. Long stretches of black sand line the coast, with man-grove swamps behind them, and a coastal plain behind that.

The Caribbean Coast

In the east, Guatemala borders on the Caribbean Sea, in the form of the Gulf of Honduras. The coast along the Gulf itself is flat and open to Caribbean storms. Amatique Bay, however, which is 16 km (10 mi) wide and 40 km (25 mi) long, is sheltered, and the country's major port, Puerto Barrios, is located on its shores. Three valley corridors extend inland from the Caribbean coast, linking it to the interior.

CLIMATE AND VEGETATION

Temperature

The climate ranges from hot and humid in parts of the lowlands to very cold in the highlands, where frosts are common in some months and where snow falls occasionally. Average annual temperatures at the coast range from 77–86°F (25–30°C), 68°F (20°C) in the central highlands, and 59°F (11°C) in the higher mountain areas.

Rainfall

The rainy season lasts from May through October inland, and into December along the coast; the dry season from November (or January) to April in the same regions.

The annual rainfall is heavy in the El Petén, the largest geographic region, averaging 80 in (203 cm) in the north and 150 in (441 cm) in the south.

Grasslands

The Pacific coastal plain is predominantly savanna, interspersed with semi-deciduous forests that line the streams originating in the highlands. Most of the savanna is given over to cattle ranching.

Forests and Jungles

In 1994, forests covered nearly 55 percent of the total land area of Guatemala, an increase of almost 12 percent from 1979. This increase masks the fact that over half of Guatemala's indigenous forests were destroyed in the 20th century. The type of forest varies by location. The highlands above 5,000 ft (1,524 m) are covered by the remnants of a once extensive pine and oak forest, which was cleared for the highland subsistence agriculture that now prevails. The forest cover disappears above 10,000 ft (3,048 m). In the north, much of El Petén remains covered by rain forest.

HUMAN POPULATION

Guatemala has a population exceeding 13.7 million people and a population growth rate of 2.6 percent. Most of the population lives in the southern highlands; the coasts and El Petén are sparsely settled. The indigenous

Population Centers – Guatemala
(2002 POPULATION ESTIMATES)
Name Population
Guatemala City (capital) 2,907,500
Mixco 209,791
Esquintla 180,000
Quezal Tenango 171,700
SOURCE : Projected from United Nations Statistics Division data.
Departments – Guatemala
POPULATIONS FROM 1994 CENSUS
Name Population Area (sq mi) Area (sq km) Capital
Alta Verapaz 543,777 3,354 8,686 Cobin
Baja Verapaz 155,480 1,206 3,124 Salami
Chimaltenango 314,813 764 1,979 Chimaltenango
Chiquimula 230,767 917 2,376 Chiquimula
El Progreso 108,400 742 1,922 Progreso
Escuintla 386,534 1,693 4,384 Escintla
Guatemala 1,813,825 821 2,126 Guatemala City
Huehuetenango 634,374 2,857 7,400 Huehuetenango
Izabal 253,153 3,490 9,038 Puerto Barrios
Jalapa 196,940 797 2,063 Jalapa
Jutiapa 307,491 1,243 3,219 Jutiapa
Peten 224,884 13,843 35,854 Ciudad Flores
Quezaltenango 503,857 753 1,951 Quezal Tenango
Quiche 437,669 3,235 8,378 Santa Cruz
Retalhuleu 188,764 717 1,856 Retalhuleu
Sacatepequez 180,647 180 465 Antigua Guatemala
San Marcos 645,418 1,464 3,791 San Marcos
Santa Rosa 246,698 1,141 2,955 Cuilapa
Solola 222,094 410 1,061 Solola
Suchitepequez 307,187 969 2,510 Mazatenango
Totonicapan 272,094 410 1,061 Totonicapin
Zacapa 157,008 1,039 2,690 Zacapa
SOURCE : 1994 Census of Population, National Statistics Institute of Guatemala.

Maya, who continue to speak Mayan languages and follow Mayan traditions, make up about half of the total populace. Most of the rest are assimilated Mestizo (assimilated Mayans or mixed Amerindian-Spanish.

NATURAL RESOURCES

Petroleum and nickel are present in Guatemala. The forests yield timber and rare tropical woods. Guatemala's rivers are an excellent source of hydropower, and the waters off the coast waterways are rich in fish. Agriculture is a major part of the economy, with coffee, sugar, and bananas among the most valuable crops.

FURTHER READINGS

Barry, Tom. Guatemala: A Country Guide. Albuquerque, NM: Inter-Hemispheric Education Resource Center, 1989.

Cummins, Ronnie. Guatemala. Milwaukee, WI: G. Stevens Children's Books, 1990.

Kelsey, Vera, and Lilly de Jongh Osborne. Four Keys toGuatemala. New York: Funk & Wagnells Company, 1939.

Perl, Lila. Guatemala, Central America's Living Past. New York: Morrow, 1982.

GEO-FACT

I n the heart of El Petén's jungles is Tikal National Park. Within the park is one of the major centers of the native Mayan civilization, inhabited from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D. Its ceremonial center contains superb temples and palaces, and ramps leading to public squares. Remains of dwellings are scattered throughout the surrounding countryside.

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Guatemala

Guatemala

At a Glance

Official Name: Republic of Guatemala

Continent: North (Central) America

Area: 42,042 square miles (108,890 sq km)

Population: 12,974,361

Capital City: Guatemala City

Largest City: Guatemala City (1,150,452)

Unit of Money: Quetzal

Major Languages: Spanish (official)

Natural Resources: Crude oil, nickel, fish

The Place

Guatemala is the northernmost country in Central America, east of Mexico and north of Honduras and El Salvador. The country has 250 miles of coastline on the Caribbean Sea to the east and on the Pacific Ocean on the west.

The country can be split into three major land areas. The Northern Plain is covered mostly by tropical rain forest. There are also some grassland areas. Lake Izabal, the country's largest lake, lies in the eastern part of the region. The Northern Plain is the least developed part of Guatemala.

The Highlands extend from east to west across the center of the country. The tallest mountain in Central America—Volcan Tajumulco—reaches an elevation of 13,845 feet (4,220 m). Guatemala's longest river, the Motagna, also begins in this area and flows for 250 miles (402 km).

The Pacific Lowlands are in the south. The region is mainly farmland, with cotton and sugar cane plantations. Many of the country's rivers flow through the lowlands before draining into the Pacific Ocean.

The temperatures of Guatemala's tropical climate vary by elevation. Lower regions reach around 80° F (27° C) throughout the year, while the highlands rarely exceed 70° F (21° C).

The People

Two main groups characterize the Guatemalan population—Indians and Ladinos. These groups are based loosely on ancestry, but Indians may adopt the Ladino way of life and vice versa. People are placed into one of these groups depending on how they live, what language they speak, and what clothes they wear.

Indians account for about 44% of the country's population. They are part of individual communities, not tribes. Most speak one of the many Maya Indian languages. Although many Indian communities speak the same languages, they rarely

Most Ladinos are of mixed Spanish ancestry and make up about 56% of the population. They are designated mainly by their income and social class. Ladinos belong to the lower, middle, and upper parts of society. Most, however, are farmers and are as poor as the Indians. Many Ladinos live in cities or towns, and have better access to medical services and educational opportunities. The Ladino population is growing faster than the Indian population. Life expectancy is 56 years.

Education

The education system in Guatemala is poor due to shortages of schools and teachers. Children between the ages of 7 and 13 are required to attend class, but only 55% of primary school-aged children do so.

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About 15% of high school-age students go to school. There are few or no schools in many rural areas, and few teachers speak the Indian languages. Because of this, many Indians cannot read or write.

Guatemala has 5 universities, and about 8% of college-aged students attend classes. The largest university is the University of San Carlos.

Government

Type: Republic

Structure: Executive

Leader: President

Defense

NA army personnel

NA