U.S. Department of State 
Background Notes: Guatemala, March 1998 
Released by the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs. 


OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Guatemala 


PROFILE 

Geography 

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 
cities--Quetzaltenango, Escuintla.
Terrain: Mountainous, with fertile coastal plain.
Climate: Temperate in highlands; tropical on coasts. 

People

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%. 

Government 

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. 

Economy 

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 
accelerating. 

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 
leftist activities. 

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 
military-dominated governments. 

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 
elections scheduled. 

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 
system efficiency. 

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 
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 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. 

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 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 
Constitutional Court. 

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. 

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 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. 

POLITICAL CONDITIONS 

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 
accords).

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 
rights. 

ECONOMY 

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 
years. 

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 
sector; 
-- 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 
good. 

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 
hemisphere.

FOREIGN RELATIONS 

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 
(PARLACEN). 

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. 

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 in earlier periods. 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; 
-- 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 
development.

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 
assistance. 

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 
companies. 

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
Tel: 800-USA-TRADE
Internet:http://www.ita.doc.gov 

American Chamber of Commerce in Guatemala
6a, Avenida 14-77, Zona 10
Apartado Postal 832
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Tel.: 502-366-4822/4716
Fax: 502-368-3106
E-mail: guamcham@ns.guate.net 

Caribbean/Latin American Action
1818 N Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel.: 202-466-7464
Fax: 202-822-0075 

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 
security forces. 

Resettlement, signed in June, 1994: Established objectives for the 
resettlement and economic integration of displaced peoples into 
Guatemalan society. 

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 
the country.

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 
202-512-2250.

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-
4000. 

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 
http://www.state.gov.

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.

Return to Western Hemisphere Background Notes Archive
Return to Background Notes Archive Homepage
Return to Electronic Research Collection Homepage