U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Guatemala, March 1998
Released by the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs.
OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Guatemala
Area: 108,780 sq. km. (42,000 sq. mi.); about the size of Tennessee.
Cities: Capital--Guatemala City (metro area pop. 2 million). Other major
Terrain: Mountainous, with fertile coastal plain.
Climate: Temperate in highlands; tropical on coasts.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Guatemalan(s).
Population (1996 est.): 10.5 million.
Annual population growth rate: 2.9%.
Ethnic groups: Mestizo (mixed Spanish-Indian), indigenous.
Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, traditional Mayan.
Languages: Spanish, 21 Indian languages (principally K'iche',
Kakchiquel, K'ekchi, and Mam).
Education: Years compulsory--6. Attendance--41%. Literacy--52%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--79/1,000. Life expectancy--64 yrs.
Work force: 50% of the population engages in some form of agriculture,
often at the subsistence level outside the monetized economy. Salaried
work force break-down: Services--36%. Industry and commerce--29%.
Agriculture--28%. Construction, mining, utilities--4%.
Type: Constitutional Democratic Republic.
Constitution: May 1985; amended November 1993.
Independence: September 15, 1821.
Branches: Executive--president (four-year term). Legislative--unicameral
80-member Congress (four-year term). Judicial--13-member Supreme Court
of Justice (five-year term).
Subdivisions: 22 departments (appointed Governors) and Guatemala City.
Major political parties: National Advancement Party (PAN), Christian
Democratic (DCG), New Guatemala Democratic Front (FDNG), Guatemalan
Republican Front (FRG), and National Union of the Center (UCN).
Suffrage: Universal for adults 18 and over who are not serving on active
duty with the armed forces.
GDP (1997 est.): $16 billion.
Annual growth rate (1997 est.): 4%.
Per capita GDP: 1997 (est.) $1,455.
Natural resources: Oil, timber, nickel.
Agriculture (24% of GDP): Products--corn, beans, coffee, cotton, cattle,
sugar, bananas, timber, rice, cardamom, rubber.
Manufacturing (14% of GDP): Types--prepared food, clothing and textiles,
construction materials, tires, pharmaceuticals.
Trade (1996): Exports--$2.1 billion: coffee, sugar, meat, cardamom,
bananas, fruits and vegetables, petroleum, apparel. Major markets--U.S.
31%, Central American Common Market (CACM) 28%. Imports--$3.15 billion:
fuels and lubricants, industrial machinery, motor vehicles, iron, and
steel. Major suppliers--U.S. 44%, CACM, and Europe.
Exchange rate (1997 avg.): 6.21 quetzals=U.S.$1.
PEOPLE AND HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS
More than half of Guatemalans are descendants of Mayan Indians.
Westernized Mayans and mestizos (mixed European and Indian) are known as
ladinos. Most of Guatemala's population is rural, though urbanization is
The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism, into which many Indians
have incorporated traditional forms of worship. Protestantism and
traditional Mayan religions are practiced by an estimated 30% of the
population. Though the official language is Spanish, it is not
universally understood among the indigenous population. However, the
peace accords signed in December 1996 provide for the translation of
some official documents and voting materials into several indigenous
languages (see summary of main substantive accords).
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. During Spanish colonial rule, most of Central America came under the
control of the Captaincy General of Guatemala.
The first colonial capital, Ciudad Vieja, was ruined by floods and an
earthquake in 1542. Survivors founded Antigua, the second capital, in
1543. In the 17th century, Antigua became one of the richest capitals in
the New World. Always vulnerable to volcanic eruptions, floods, and
earthquakes, Antigua was destroyed by two earthquakes in 1773, but the
remnants of its Spanish colonial architecture have been preserved as a
national monument. The third capital, Guatemala City, was founded in
1776, after Antigua was abandoned.
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. By the mid-point of Arbenz's term, communists
controlled key peasant organizations, labor unions, and the governing
political party, holding some key government positions. Despite most
Guatemalans' attachment to the original ideals of the 1944 uprising,
some private sector leaders and the military viewed Arbenz's policies as
a menace. The army refused to defend the Arbenz Government when a group
led by Col. Carlos Castillo Armas invaded the country from Honduras in
1954 and eventually took over the government.
In response to the increasingly autocratic rule of General Ydigoras
Fuentes, who took power in 1958 following the murder of Col. Castillo
Armas, 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.
Three principal left-wing guerrilla groups--the Guerrilla Army of the
Poor (EGP), the Revolutionary Organization of Armed People (ORPA), and
the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR)--conducted economic sabotage and targeted
government installations and members of government security forces in
armed attacks. These three organizations, plus a fourth--the outlawed
communist party, known as the PGT--combined to form the Guatemalan
National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) in 1982. At the same time, extreme
right-wing groups of self-appointed vigilantes, including the Secret
Anti-Communist Army (ESA) and the White Hand, tortured and murdered
students, professionals, and peasants suspected of involvement in
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 were a series of military or
In March 1982, army troops commanded by junior officers staged a coup to
prevent the assumption of power by former Defense Minister Gen. Anibal
Guevara, whose electoral victory was marred by fraud. The coup leaders
asked Brig. Gen. Efrain Jose Rios Montt to negotiate the departure of
presidential incumbent General Lucas Garcia. Rios Montt had been the
candidate of the Christian Democratic Party in the 1974 presidential
elections and was also widely believed to have lost by fraud. Rios Montt
formed a three-member junta that annulled the 1965 constitution,
dissolved the Congress, suspended political parties, and canceled the
election law. Shortly thereafter, Rios Montt assumed the title of
President of the Republic. Responding to a wave of violence, the
government imposed a state of siege, while at the same time forming an
advisory Council of State to guide a return to democracy. In 1983,
electoral laws were promulgated, the state of siege was lifted,
political activity was once again allowed, and constituent assembly
Guerrilla forces and their leftist allies then denounced the new
government and stepped up attacks. Rios Montt sought to combat the
threat with military actions and economic reforms, in his words, "rifles
and beans." The government formed civilian defense forces which, along
with the army, successfully contained the insurgency. However, on August
8, 1983, Rios Montt was deposed by the Guatemalan army, and Minister of
Defense, Gen. Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores, was proclaimed head of
state. General Mejia claimed that certain "religious fanatics" were
abusing their positions in the government and that corruption had to be
weeded out. Constituent assembly elections were held on July 1, 1984.
On May 30, 1985, after nine months of debate, the constituent assembly
finished drafting a new constitution, which took immediate effect. Mejia
called general elections. The Christian Democratic Party (DCG)
candidate, Vinicio Cerezo, won the presidency with almost 70% of the
vote and took office in January 1986.
1986 to 1996
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. The Supreme Court also
embarked on a series of reforms to fight corruption and improve legal
With Cerezo's election, the military returned to its more traditional
role of fighting against the insurgents. The first two years of Cerezo's
Administration were characterized by a stable economy and a marked
decrease in political violence. Two coup attempts were made in May 1988
and May 1989 by dissatisfied military personnel, but military leadership
supported the constitutional order. The government was heavily
criticized for its unwillingness to investigate or prosecute cases of
human rights violations. The final two years of Cerezo's Government also
were marked by a failing economy, strikes, protest marches, and
allegations of widespread corruption. The government's inability to deal
with many of the nation's problems--such as infant mortality,
illiteracy, deficient health and social services, and rising levels of
violence--contributed to popular discontent.
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. Because his Movement of
Solidarity Action (MAS) party gained only 18 of 116 seats in Congress,
Serrano entered into a tenuous alliance with the Christian Democrats and
the National Union of the Center (UCN).
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. He 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 from 3% in 1990 to almost 5% in 1992. 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
autocoup) 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.
In the face of this pressure, 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 anti-corruption 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 government 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. Controlled by the anti-corruption parties--the Populist
Republican Front (FRG) headed by ex-General Efrain Rios Montt, and the
center-right National Advancement Party (PAN)--the new Congress began to
move away from the corruption that characterized its predecessors.
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 Socio-economic and
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 PAN candidate Alvaro Arzu defeated Alfonso Portillo of
the FRG by just over 2% of the vote. Arzu won because of his strength in
Guatemala City, where he had previously served as mayor, and in the
surrounding urban area. Portillo won all of the rural departments. The
biggest surprise of the election was the strong showing of the newly
formed New Guatemala Democratic Front (FDNG), the first legitimate party
of the left to compete in 40 years. The FDNG presidential candidate won
almost 8% of the vote, and six FDNG deputies, including several
internationally known human rights advocates, were elected to Congress.
In the other November races, the PAN won 43 of the 80 seats in Congress
and leadership of one-third of the municipal governments. The FRG won 21
seats to become the principal opposition party. The formerly powerful
but discredited DCG and UCN elected only seven deputies between them.
Guatemala's 1985 Constitution provides for a separation of powers among
the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The
1993 constitutional reforms included a reduction in the number of
congressional representatives in the unicameral structure, from 116 to
80, and an increase in the number of Supreme Court justices from nine to
13. The terms of office for president, vice president, and congressional
representatives were reduced from five years to four years and for
Supreme Court justices from six years to five years.
The president and vice president are directly elected through universal
suffrage and limited to one term. 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
Guatemala has 22 administrative subdivisions (departments) administered
by governors appointed by the president. Guatemala City and 330 other
municipalities are governed by popularly elected mayors or councils.
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 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, although
President Arzu has ordered the army to support the police in response to
public concern about a nationwide wave of violent crime. The accord
calls for a one-third reduction in the army's authorized strength and
budget, and for a constitutional amendment to permit the appointment of
a civilian Minister of Defense.
The army has met its accord-mandated target of 33,000, including
subordinate air force (1,000) and navy (1,000) elements. It is equipped
with armaments and materiel from the United States, Israel, Yugoslavia,
Taiwan, Argentina, Spain, and France. As part of the army downsizing,
the operational structure of 19 military zones and 3 strategic brigades
are being 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.
Principal Government Officials
President--Alvaro ARZU Irigoyen
Vice President--Luis Alberto FLORES Asturias
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Eduardo STEIN Barillas
Ambassador to the U.S.--Pedro Miguel LAMPORT
Ambassador to the UN--Julio MARTINI Herrera
Ambassador to the OAS--Alfonso Jose QUINONEZ
The Guatemalan Embassy is at 2220 R Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008
(tel. 202-745-4952). Consulates are in New York, Miami, Chicago,
Houston, and Los Angeles, and an honorary consul in New Orleans.
Upon taking office, the Arzu Administration made resolution of the 36-
year internal conflict before the end of 1996 its highest priority.
President Arzu took the bold steps necessary to breathe life into the
peace process and to increase civilian control over the military. He
traveled to Mexico and El Salvador to meet with guerrilla leaders, thus
adding impetus to the peace process and leading to subsequent agreements
on: socio-economic/agrarian issues which were signed in May; the
strengthening of civil society and the role of the military in a
democracy in September; a definitive ceasefire, constitutional and
electoral reforms, and an agreement on the reinsertion of the URNG into
political life in Guatemala in December. The final agreement, signed on
December 29, 1996, contributed significantly to an improvement in
Guatemala's human rights (see last page for summary of main substantive
Within two weeks of taking office, President Arzu initiated a major
shakeup of the military high command and oversaw the firing of almost
200 corrupt police officials. In September 1996, the government
uncovered a large smuggling scheme involving a number of government
officials and military and police officers. The case, which is expected
to take a number of years to resolve, resulted in the dismissal of
several additional military, police, and customs officials. The Arzu
Administration also began a series of actions to boost the economy,
including a reform of the tax system, and demonopolization and
privatization of the electricity and telecommunication sectors.
President Alvaro Arzu has strongly and publicly condemned human rights
abuses. Positive political developments and the demobilization of
200,000 members of the Civilian Defense Patrols were major factors in
the positive change. In contrast to past years, there was a marked
decline in new cases of human rights abuse, but problems remain in some
areas. Common crime, aggravated by a legacy of violence and vigilante
justice, presents a serious challenge to the government. Impunity
remains 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.
The human rights accord signed in March 1994 called for the immediate
establishment of a UN Human Rights Verification Mission in Guatemala
(MINUGUA), which began to operate in November 1994. The presence of
MINUGUA has been a highly positive factor in improving respect for human
Guatemala's GDP for 1997 is estimated at $16 billion, with real growth
of approximately 4%. 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
is well-positioned for rapid economic growth over the next several
Guatemala's economy is dominated by the private sector, which generates
about 85% of GDP. Agriculture contributes 24% 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 non-traditional agricultural products such as winter vegetables,
fruit, and cut flowers have boomed, while more traditional exports such
as cotton, sugar, and coffee continue to represent a large share of the
export market. The United States is the country's largest trading
partner, providing 44% of Guatemala's imports and receiving 31% of its
exports. The government sector is small and shrinking, with its business
activities limited to public utilities (which are to be privatized) and
several development-oriented financial institutions.
Current economic priorities include:
-- Liberalizing the trade and foreign exchange regimes;
-- Simplifying the tax structure, enhancing tax compliance, and
broadening the tax base. At less than 8% of GDP, Guatemala's tax burden
is among the lowest in the Western Hemisphere;
-- Restraining growth of domestic credit, especially to the public
-- Demonopolizing the electricity and telecommunications sectors and
opening them to full private sector participation;
-- Liberalizing the market for petroleum products; and
-- Improving the investment climate through procedural and regulatory
simplification and adopting a goal of concluding treaties to protect
investment and intellectual property rights.
Import tariffs have been lowered in conjunction with Guatemala's Central
American neighbors so that most now fall between 1% and 20%, with
further reductions planned. Responding to Guatemala's changed political
and economic policy environment, the international community has
mobilized substantial resources to support the country's economic and
social development objectives. The United States, along with other donor
countries--especially France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Japan, and the
international financial institutions--have increased development project
financing. Donors' response to the need for international financial
support funds for implementation of the peace accords is expected to be
Problems hindering economic growth include illiteracy and low levels of
education; inadequate and underdeveloped capital markets; and lack of
infrastructure, particularly in the transportation, telecommunications,
and electricity sectors. 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, more than half the population lives in poverty, and two-thirds
of that number live in extreme poverty. Guatemala's social indicators,
such as infant mortality and illiteracy, are among the worst in the
Guatemala's major diplomatic interests are regional security and,
increasingly, regional development and economic integration. The Central
American Ministers of Trade meet on a regular basis to work on regional
approaches to trade issues. In March 1997, Guatemala hosted the second
annual Trade and Investment Forum, under the sponsorship of the U.S.
Department of Commerce. The two-day event highlighted the growing
relationship that Guatemala has with its closest trading partners and
offer regional opportunities to foreign investors. In March 1998,
Guatemala joined its Central American neighbors in signing a Trade and
Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). Guatemala also originated the
idea for, and is the seat of, the Central American Parliament
Guatemala participates in several regional groups, particularly those
related to the environment and trade. For example, President Clinton and
the Central American presidents 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 long laid claim to Belize; the territorial dispute caused
problems with the United Kingdom and later with Belize following its
1981 independence from the U.K. Relations have since improved. In 1986,
Guatemala and the U.K. re-established commercial and consular relations;
in 1987, they re-established full diplomatic relations. 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. Although Belize
has recognized Guatemalan diplomatic representation at the ambassadorial
level for several years, the Guatemalan Government did not accredit the
first ambassador from Belize until December 1996.
While Belize continues to be a difficult domestic political issue in
Guatemala, the two governments have quietly maintained constructive
relations. The Arzu Administration has indicated its intent to resolve
the dispute with Belize, making it the number one priority now that the
final peace accord has been signed. 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.
Relations between the United States and Guatemala traditionally have
been close, although at times strained by human rights and
civil/military issues in earlier periods. U.S. policy objectives in
-- Supporting the institutionalization of democracy and implementation
of the peace accords; Encouraging respect for human rights and the rule
-- Supporting broad-based economic growth and sustainable development,
and maintaining mutually beneficial trade and commercial relations;
-- Cooperating to combat narcotics trafficking; and
-- Supporting Central American integration and regional peace efforts.
The United States, as a member of "the Friends of Guatemala," 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.
In Costa Rica in May 1997, President Arzu met with President Clinton and
his counterparts from Central America, Belize, and the Dominican
Republic to celebrate the remarkable democratic transformation in the
region and reaffirm support for strengthening democracy, good
governance, and promoting prosperity through economic integration, free
trade, and investment. The leaders also expressed their commitment to
the continued development of just and equitable societies and
responsible environmental policies as integral elements of sustainable
Tangible support for the implementation of the accords will come from a
number of sources. Development assistance through the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID) is concentrated in programs to
strengthen democratic institutions, improve health and education, and
protect the environment. The U.S. will also provide up to $25 million
dollars in FY 1998 Economic Support Funds, including an immediate grant
of $5 million, focused on the most immediate needs associated with the
implementation of the peace accords, such as demobilization of the ex-
combatants. The U.S. hopes to be able to continue this level of support
for another two years. To address the issue of impunity, USAID and the
Department of Justice are funding programs to strengthen the courts, the
public prosecutor's office, and the civilian police. Other federal
agencies such as the Departments of Agriculture, Labor, and the Treasury
have programs either in place or in the planning stages to support
specific aspects of the peace accords.
The U.S. Government suspended military aid to Guatemala in 1977
following an upsurge in death squad activity and the publication of the
Department's first human rights report. Modest training assistance was
reinstated in 1983, but suspended again in 1990 in response to the
murder of U.S. citizen Michael Devine and the Guatemalan military's lack
of cooperation in that investigation. The U.S. Government eliminated
access to IMET funds in 1995 over human rights concerns. Currently,
Guatemala is eligible for expanded IMET and a program began in 1997.
The United States is Guatemala's largest trading partner, providing 44%
of the country's imports and receiving 31% of its exports. U.S. official
assistance to Guatemala since 1986 totals about $965 million, and in
1997, the U.S. provided $65 million in bilateral economic development
More than 150,000 U.S. citizens visit the diverse attractions in
Guatemala each year, although as stated in the Consular Information
Sheet for Guatemala, "While violent crime has been a serious and growing
problem in Guatemala for years, 1997 has seen a marked increase in
incidents involving American citizens." When visitors have problems,
their first contacts are often with the U.S. Embassy. Whether it is
replacing a lost passport, arranging for additional funds to be wired to
a visitor in distress, or assisting in locating a lost loved one, the
embassy is prepared to help American citizens traveling in Guatemala.
Likewise, American businesses find a relatively open and accommodating
market in Guatemala, which is particularly receptive to U.S.-origin
products. Fifty U.S. businesses have set up assembly plants, while other
investors are finding an attractive climate in which to establish their
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Donald J. Planty
Deputy Chief of Mission--William Brencick
Political Counselor--Donald Harrington
Economic Counselor--Jeffrey R. Cunningham
Administrative Counselor--Anthony Spakauskas
Defense Attache--Col. Dennis Keller
Military Assistance Group--Col. Joseph Haning
Consul General--Kay Anske
U.S.AID Director--William Stacy Rhodes
Regional Security Officer--Kenneth Sykes
Public Affairs Officer--Alberto Fernandez
Drug Enforcement Administration--Raul Delgado
Agricultural Attache--Suzanne Heinen
Commercial Attache--Brian Brisson
The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala is located at Avenida la Reforma 7-01,
Zone 10, Guatemala City (tel. (502) 331-1541); fax (502) 331-8885)
OTHER CONTACT INFORMATION:
U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade Administration
Trade Information Center
14th & Constitution, NW
Washington, DC 20230
American Chamber of Commerce in Guatemala
6a, Avenida 14-77, Zona 10
Apartado Postal 832
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Caribbean/Latin American Action
1818 N Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
The Guatemalan Peace Process
On December 29, 1996, the Government of Guatemala and representatives of
the URNG--an umbrella organization grouping four insurgency movements--
signed the last of a number of accords, which brought to a close a 36-
year long internal conflict, the longest in Latin America. Six of the
accords are "substantive." Others focus on procedural matters.
The main substantive accords are:
Human Rights, signed in March, 1994: Aimed at strengthening human rights
organizations and ending impunity. It established MINUGUA, the UN human
rights monitoring entity, which has been a key element in the
restoration of peace, and called for the disbanding of clandestine
Resettlement, signed in June, 1994: Established objectives for the
resettlement and economic integration of displaced peoples into
Historical Clarification, signed in June, 1994: Establishes a commission
to report on human rights violations committed during the conflict.
Indigenous Rights, signed in March, 1995: Calls for recognition of
Guatemala's ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity, and for the
rights of indigenous people to live by their own cultural norms.
Socio-economic and Agrarian issues, signed in May, 1996: Promotes
decentralization and regionalization of government services, urges land
reform, protection of the environment, and a more equitable budgetary
and taxation policy.
Strengthening Civil Authority and the Role of the Military in a
Democratic Society, signed in September, 1996: Calls for improvement,
modernization, and strengthening of all three branches of the state. It
contains an agreed list of constitutional reforms which the government
will propose and limits the armed forces' role to defense of national
sovereignty and territorial integrity.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are
issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel
to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all
countries and include information on immigration practices, currency
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and
security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in
Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate information
quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term
conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of
American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by
calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-
on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information
Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page:
and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). To access CABB, dial the
modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set
terminal communications program to N-8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop
bit); and terminal emulation to VT100. The login is travel and the
password is info (Note: Lower case is required). The CABB also carries
international security information from the Overseas Security Advisory
Council and Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs
Trips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on
obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, can be purchased
from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-
Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-
day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m.
to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-
225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate
of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648).
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at
(404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization
recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water
safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information
for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is
available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC
20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal
Government Officials" listing in this publication).
U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas
are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country
(see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication).
Registering with the embassy may help you to replace lost identity
documents or help family members contact you in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information:
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet,
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch,
the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings;
Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign
service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an annual basis by
the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O.
Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or
fax (202) 512-2250.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information,
including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet
(www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-
1986 for more information.
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