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Guatemala, See : Flags, Maps

Guatemala, the country of the future, Charles M. Pepper

Guatemala (Central America and Caribbean)

Introduction ::Guatemala


The Mayan civilization flourished in Guatemala and surrounding regions during the first millennium A.D. After almost three centuries as a Spanish colony, Guatemala won its independence in 1821. During the second half of the 20th century, it experienced a variety of military and civilian governments, as well as a 36-year guerrilla war. In 1996, the government signed a peace agreement formally ending the conflict, which had left more than 100,000 people dead and had created, by some estimates, some 1 million refugees.

Geography ::Guatemala

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Central America, bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between El
Salvador and Mexico, and bordering the Gulf of Honduras (Caribbean
Sea) between Honduras and Belize

Geographic coordinates:
15 30 N, 90 15 W

Map references:

Central America and the Caribbean


total: 108,889 sq km country comparison to the world: 106 land: 107,159 sq km

water: 1,730 sq km

Area - comparative:

slightly smaller than Tennessee

Guatemala 11

Land boundaries:

total: 1,687 km

border countries: Belize 266 km, El Salvador 203 km, Honduras 256 km, Mexico 962 km


400 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

continental shelf: 200 m depth or to the depth of exploitation


tropical; hot, humid in lowlands; cooler in highlands


mostly mountains with narrow coastal plains and rolling limestone plateau

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

highest point: Volcan Tajumulco 4,211 m

Natural resources:

petroleum, nickel, rare woods, fish, chicle, hydropower

Land use:

arable land: 13.22%

permanent crops: 5.6%

other: 81.18% (2005)

Irrigated land:

1,300 sq km (2003)

Total renewable water resources:

111.3 cu km (2000)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):

total: 2.01 cu km/yr (6%/13%/80%)

per capita: 160 cu m/yr (2000)

Natural hazards:

numerous volcanoes in mountains, with occasional violent earthquakes; Caribbean coast extremely susceptible to hurricanes and other tropical storms

volcanism: Guatemala experiences significant volcanic activity in the Sierra Madre range; Santa Maria (elev. 3,772 m, 12,375 ft) has been deemed a "Decade Volcano" by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior, worthy of study due to its explosive history and close proximity to human populations; Pacaya (elev. 2,552 m, 8,373 ft), which erupted in May 2010 causing an ashfall on Guatemala City and prompting evacuations, is one of the country's most active volcanoes; the volcano has frequently been in eruption since 1965; other historically active volcanoes include Acatenango, Almolonga, Atitlan, Fuego, and Tacana

Environment - current issues:

deforestation in the Peten rainforest; soil erosion; water pollution

Environment - international agreements:

party to: Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate
Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species,
Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine
Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note:

no natural harbors on west coast

People ::Guatemala


13,550,440 (July 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 68

Age structure:

0-14 years: 39.4% (male 2,664,058/female 2,573,006)

15-64 years: 56.8% (male 3,655,184/female 3,884,331)

65 years and over: 3.8% (male 231,652/female 268,286) (2010 est.)

Median age:

total: 19.7 years

male: 19.1 years

female: 20.4 years (2010 est.)

Population growth rate:

2.019% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 55

Birth rate:

27.4 births/1,000 population (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 49

Death rate:

5.04 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 184

Net migration rate:

-2.17 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 175


urban population: 49% of total population (2008)

rate of urbanization: 3.4% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female

total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2010 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 26.91 deaths/1,000 live births country comparison to the world: 80 male: 29.22 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 24.49 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 70.59 years country comparison to the world: 142 male: 68.76 years

female: 72.51 years (2010 est.)

Total fertility rate:

3.36 children born/woman (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 50

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.8% (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 60

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:

59,000 (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 61

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

3,900 (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 51

Major infectious diseases:

degree of risk: high

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever

vectorborne disease: dengue fever and malaria

water contact disease: leptospirosis (2009)


noun: Guatemalan(s)

adjective: Guatemalan

Ethnic groups:

Mestizo (mixed Amerindian-Spanish - in local Spanish called Ladino) and European 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)


Roman Catholic, Protestant, indigenous Mayan beliefs


Spanish (official) 60%, Amerindian languages 40% (23 officially recognized Amerindian languages, including Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna, and Xinca)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 69.1%

male: 75.4%

female: 63.3% (2002 census)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):

total: 11 years

male: 11 years

female: 10 years (2007)

Education expenditures:

3.2% of GDP (2008) country comparison to the world: 143

Government ::Guatemala

Country name:

conventional long form: Republic of Guatemala

conventional short form: Guatemala

local long form: Republica de Guatemala

local short form: Guatemala

Government type:

constitutional democratic republic


name: Guatemala City

geographic coordinates: 14 37 N, 90 31 W

time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC during Standard Time)

daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in April; ends last Friday in September; note - there is no DST planned for 2010

Administrative divisions:

22 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento); Alta
Verapaz, Baja Verapaz, Chimaltenango, Chiquimula, El Progreso,
Escuintla, Guatemala, Huehuetenango, Izabal, Jalapa, Jutiapa, Peten,
Quetzaltenango, Quiche, Retalhuleu, Sacatepequez, San Marcos, Santa
Rosa, Solola, Suchitepequez, Totonicapan, Zacapa


15 September 1821 (from Spain)

National holiday:

Independence Day, 15 September (1821)


31 May 1985, effective 14 January 1986; suspended 25 May 1993; reinstated 5 June 1993; amended November 1993

Legal system:

civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction


18 years of age; universal; note - active duty members of the armed forces may not vote and are restricted to their barracks on election day

Executive branch:

chief of state: President Alvaro COLOM Caballeros (since 14 January 2008); Vice President Jose Rafael ESPADA (since 14 January 2008); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government

head of government: President Alvaro COLOM Caballeros (since 14 January 2008); Vice President Jose Rafael ESPADA (since 14 January 2008)

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president (For more information visit the World Leaders website ) elections: president elected by popular vote for a four-year term (may not serve consecutive terms); election last held on 9 September 2007; runoff held on 4 November 2007 (next to be held in September 2011)

election results: Alvaro COLOM Caballeros elected president; percent of vote - Alvaro COLOM Caballeros 52.8%, Otto PEREZ Molina 47.2%

Legislative branch:

unicameral Congress of the Republic or Congreso de la Republica (158 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)

elections: last held on 9 September 2007 (next to be held in September 2011)

election results: percent of vote by party - UNE 30.4%, GANA 23.4%, PP 18.9%, FRG 9.5%, PU 5.1%, other 12.7%; seats by party - UNE 48, GANA 37, PP 30, FRG 15, PU 8, CASA 5, EG 4, PAN 4, UCN 4, URNG 2, UD 1

Judicial branch:

Constitutional Court or Corte de Constitucionalidad is Guatemala's highest court (five judges are elected by Congress for concurrent five-year terms); Supreme Court of Justice or Corte Suprema de Justicia (13 members are elected by Congress to serve concurrent five-year terms and elect a president of the Court each year from among their number; the president of the Supreme Court of Justice also supervises trial judges around the country, who are named to five-year terms)

Political parties and leaders:

Center of Social Action or CASA [Feliz Adolfo RUANO de Leon];
Democracy Front or FRENTE [Alfonso CABRERA]; Democratic Union or UD
[Edwin Armando MARTINEZ Herrera]; Encounter for Guatemala or EG
[Nineth MONTENGRO]; Grand National Alliance or GANA [Jaime Antonio
MARTINEZ Lohayza]; Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity or URNG
[Hector Alfredo NUILA Ericastilla]; Guatemalan Republican Front or
FRG [Luis Fernando PEREZ]; Independent Bloc Guatemala or BG [Macario
Efrain OLIVA Muralles]; Independent Democratic Freedom Renewed or
LIDER [Manuel BALDIZON]; National Advancement Party or PAN [Juan
GUTIERREZ]; National Unity for Hope or UNE [Roberto KESTLER
Velasquez]; Nationalist Change Union or UCN [Mario ESTRADA]; Patriot
Party or PP [Ingrid Roxana BALDETTI Elias]; Unionista Party or PU
[Alvaro ARZU Irigoyen]

Political pressure groups and leaders:

Agrarian Owners Group or UNAGRO; Alliance Against Impunity or AAI;
Committee for Campesino Unity or CUC; Coordinating Committee of
Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial, and Financial Associations or
CACIF; International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala or
CICIG; Mutual Support Group or GAM

International organization participation:

(correspondent), ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAES, LAIA (observer), MIGA,

Diplomatic representation in the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador Francisco VILLAGRAN de Leon

chancery: 2220 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 745-4952
FAX: [1] (202) 745-1908

consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Phoenix, Providence, San Francisco

Diplomatic representation from the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador Stephen G. MCFARLAND

embassy: 7-01 Avenida Reforma, Zone 10, Guatemala City

mailing address: APO AA 34024

telephone: [502] 2326-4000
FAX: [502] 2326-4654

Flag description:

three equal vertical bands of light blue (hoist side), white, and light blue, with the coat of arms centered in the white band; the coat of arms includes a green and red quetzal (the national bird) representing liberty and a scroll bearing the inscription LIBERTAD 15 DE SEPTIEMBRE DE 1821 (the original date of independence from Spain) all superimposed on a pair of crossed rifles signifying Guatemala's willingness to defend itself and a pair of crossed swords representing honor and framed by a laurel wreath symbolizing victory; the blue bands stand for the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and the sea and sky; the white band denotes peace and purity

National anthem:

name: "Himno Nacional de Guatemala" (National Anthem of Guatemala)

lyrics/music: Jose Joaquin PALMA/Rafael Alvarez OVALLE

note: adopted 1897, modified lyrics adopted 1934; Cuban poet Jose Joaquin PALMA anonymously submitted lyrics to a public contest calling for a national anthem; his authorship was not discovered until 1911

Economy ::Guatemala

Economy - overview:

Guatemala is the most populous of the Central American countries with a GDP per capita roughly one-half that of the average for Latin America and the Caribbean. The agricultural sector accounts for nearly 15% of GDP and half of the labor force; key agricultural exports include coffee, sugar, and bananas. The 1996 peace accords, which ended 36 years of civil war, removed a major obstacle to foreign investment, and since then Guatemala has pursued important reforms and macroeconomic stabilization. The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) entered into force in July 2006 spurring increased investment and diversification of exports, with the largest increases in ethanol and non-traditional agricultural exports. While CAFTA has helped improve the investment climate, concerns over security, the lack of skilled workers and poor infrastructure continue to hamper foreign direct investment. The distribution of income remains highly unequal with the richest decile comprising over 40% of Guatemala's overall consumption. More than half of the population is below the national poverty line and 15% lives in extreme poverty. Poverty among indigenous groups, which make up 38% of the population, averages 76% and extreme poverty rises to 28%. 43% of children under five are chronically malnourished, one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. President COLOM entered into office with the promise to increase education, healthcare, and rural development, and in April 2008 he inaugurated a conditional cash transfer program, modeled after programs in Brazil and Mexico, that provide financial incentives for poor families to keep their children in school and get regular health check-ups. Given Guatemala's large expatriate community in the United States, it is the top remittance recipient in Central America, with inflows serving as a primary source of foreign income equivalent to nearly two-thirds of exports. Economic growth fell in 2009 as export demand from US and other Central American markets fell and foreign investment slowed amid the global recession, but the economy recovered gradually in 2010 and will likely return to more normal growth rates by 2012. President COLOM, in his last year in office, will likely face opposition to economic reform, particularly over a long-delayed tax reform and an IMF-recommended reform to strengthen the banking sector. Larger budget deficits and increased debt can be expected in 2011.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$70.31 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 81 $68.8 billion (2009 est.)

$68.39 billion (2008 est.)

note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate):

$40.77 billion (2010 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

2.2% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 143 0.6% (2009 est.)

3.3% (2008 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$5,200 (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 142 $5,200 (2009 est.)

$5,300 (2008 est.)

note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 13.3%

industry: 24.4%

services: 62.3% (2010 est.)

Labor force:

4.26 million (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 84

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 50%

industry: 15%

services: 35% (1999 est.)

Unemployment rate:

3.2% (2005 est.) country comparison to the world: 25

Population below poverty line:

56.2% (2004 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 1.3%

highest 10%: 42.4% (2006)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

55.1 (2007) country comparison to the world: 13 55.8 (1998)

Investment (gross fixed):

13.9% of GDP (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 138

Public debt:

29.6% of GDP (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 89 27.9% of GDP (2009 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

3.9% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 112 1.9% (2009 est.)

Central bank discount rate:

NA% (31 December 2009)

NA% (31 December 2008)

Commercial bank prime lending rate:

13.85% (31 December 2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 58 13.39% (31 December 2008 est.)

Stock of narrow money:

$6.6 billion (31 December 2010 est) country comparison to the world: 79 $6.13 billion (31 December 2009 est)

Stock of broad money:

$25.4 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 76 $22.9 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:

$15.58 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 85 $14.8 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares:

Agriculture - products:

sugarcane, corn, bananas, coffee, beans, cardamom; cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens


sugar, textiles and clothing, furniture, chemicals, petroleum, metals, rubber, tourism

Industrial production growth rate:

2.6% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 119

Electricity - production:

8.425 billion kWh (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 97

Electricity - consumption:

7.115 billion kWh (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 98

Electricity - exports:

131.9 million kWh (2007 est.)

Electricity - imports:

8.11 million kWh (2007 est.)

Oil - production:

13,530 bbl/day (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 80

Oil - consumption:

79,000 bbl/day (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 86

Oil - exports:

21,850 bbl/day (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 90

Oil - imports:

72,440 bbl/day (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 76

Oil - proved reserves:

83.07 million bbl (1 January 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 72

Natural gas - production:

0 cu m (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 105

Natural gas - consumption:

0 cu m (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 149

Natural gas - exports:

0 cu m (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 71

Natural gas - imports:

0 cu m (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 169

Natural gas - proved reserves:

2.96 billion cu m (1 January 2006 est.) country comparison to the world: 93

Current account balance:

-$1.345 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 144 -$267.4 million (2009 est.)


$8.47 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 91 $7.214 billion (2009)

Exports - commodities:

coffee, sugar, petroleum, apparel, bananas, fruits and vegetables, cardamom

Exports - partners:

US 40.41%, El Salvador 11.2%, Honduras 8.48%, Mexico 5.86% (2009)


$12.65 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 83 $11.52 billion (2009)

Imports - commodities:

fuels, machinery and transport equipment, construction materials, grain, fertilizers, electricity

Imports - partners:

US 36.46%, Mexico 10.49%, China 5.88%, El Salvador 5.14% (2009)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$5.709 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 65 $4.973 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Debt - external:

$17.47 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 77 $16.04 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Exchange rates:

quetzales (GTQ) per US dollar - 8.0798 (2010), 8.1616 (2009), 7.5895 (2008), 7.6833 (2007), 7.6026 (2006)

Communications ::Guatemala

Telephones - main lines in use:

1.413 million (2009) country comparison to the world: 67

Telephones - mobile cellular:

17.308 million (2009) country comparison to the world: 43

Telephone system:

general assessment: fairly modern network centered in the city of Guatemala

domestic: state-owned telecommunications company privatized in the late 1990s opening the way for competition; fixed-line teledensity roughly 10 per 100 persons; fixed-line investments are being concentrated on improving rural connectivity; mobile-cellular teledensity exceeds 100 per 100 persons

international: country code - 502; landing point for both the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1) and the SAM-1 fiber optic submarine cable system that together provide connectivity to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and the US; connected to Central American Microwave System; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2008)

Broadcast media:

4 privately-owned national terrestrial TV channels dominate TV broadcasting; multi-channel satellite and cable services are available; 1 government-owned radio station and hundreds of privately-owned radio stations (2007)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

196,870 (2010) country comparison to the world: 65

Internet users:

2.279 million (2009) country comparison to the world: 72

Transportation ::Guatemala


372 (2010) country comparison to the world: 21

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 13

2,438 to 3,047 m: 3

1,524 to 2,437 m: 3

914 to 1,523 m: 4

under 914 m: 3 (2010)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 359

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 3

914 to 1,523 m: 84

under 914 m: 271 (2010)


oil 480 km (2009)


total: 332 km country comparison to the world: 119 narrow gauge: 332 km 0.914-m gauge (2008)


total: 14,095 km country comparison to the world: 124 paved: 4,863 km (includes 75 km of expressways)

unpaved: 9,232 km (2000)


990 km (260 km navigable year round; additional 730 km navigable during high-water season) (2010) country comparison to the world: 66

Ports and terminals:

Puerto Quetzal, Santo Tomas de Castilla

Military ::Guatemala

Military branches:

National Army of Guatemala (Ejercito Nacional de Guatemala, ENG),
Guatemalan Navy (Marina Nacional, includes Marines), Guatemalan Air
Force (Fuerza Aerea Guatemalteca, FAG) (2009)

Military service age and obligation:

all male citizens between the ages of 18 and 50 are liable for military service; conscript service obligation varies from 12 to 24 months; women can serve as officers (2009)

Manpower available for military service:

males age 16-49: 3,062,027

females age 16-49: 3,266,655 (2010 est.)

Manpower fit for military service:

males age 16-49: 2,494,903

females age 16-49: 2,827,208 (2010 est.)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:

male: 168,959

female: 166,414 (2010 est.)

Military expenditures:

0.4% of GDP (2009) country comparison to the world: 166

Transnational Issues ::Guatemala

Disputes - international:

annual ministerial meetings under the OAS-initiated Agreement on the Framework for Negotiations and Confidence Building Measures continue to address Guatemalan land and maritime claims in Belize and the Caribbean Sea; the Line of Adjacency created under the 2002 Differendum serves in lieu of the contiguous international boundary to control squatting in the sparsely inhabited rain forests of Belize's border region; Mexico must deal with thousands of impoverished Guatemalans and other Central Americans who cross the porous border looking for work in Mexico and the United States

Refugees and internally displaced persons:

IDPs: undetermined (the UN does not estimate there are any IDPs, although some NGOs estimate over 200,000 IDPs as a result of over three decades of internal conflict that ended in 1996) (2007)

Trafficking in persons:

current situation: Guatemala is a source, transit, and destination country for Guatemalans and Central Americans trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor; human trafficking is a significant and growing problem in the country; Guatemalan women and children are trafficked within the country for commercial sexual exploitation, primarily to Mexico and the United States; Guatemalan men, women, and children are also trafficked within the country, and to Mexico and the United States, for forced labor

tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - for a second consecutive year, Guatemala is on the Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking in persons, particularly with respect to ensuring that trafficking offenders are appropriately prosecuted for their crimes; while prosecutors initiated trafficking prosecutions, they continued to face problems in court with application of Guatemala's comprehensive anti-trafficking law; the government made modest improvements to its protection efforts, but assistance remained inadequate overall in 2007 (2008)

Illicit drugs:

major transit country for cocaine and heroin; in 2005, cultivated 100 hectares of opium poppy after reemerging as a potential source of opium in 2004; potential production of less than 1 metric ton of pure heroin; marijuana cultivation for mostly domestic consumption; proximity to Mexico makes Guatemala a major staging area for drugs (particularly for cocaine); money laundering is a serious problem; corruption is a major problem


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