Guatemala

Map of Guatemala / Central Intelligence Agency / “The World Factbook” / Public Domain

Introduction

The Maya 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 internal conflict.

Government

Executive Department

chief of state: President Alejandro GIAMMATTEI (since 14 January 2020); Vice President Cesar Guillermo CASTILLO Reyes (since 14 January 2020); note – the president is both chief of state and head of government

head of government: President Alejandro GIAMMATTEI (since 14 January 2020); Vice President Cesar Guillermo CASTILLO Reyes (since 14 January 2020)

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president

elections/appointments: president and vice president directly elected on the same ballot by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 4-year term (not eligible for consecutive terms); election last held on 16 June 2019 with a runoff on 11 August 2019 (next to be held in June 2023)

election results: Alejandro GIAMMATTEI elected president; percent of vote in first round – Sandra TORRES (UNE) 25.54%, Alejandro GIAMMATTEI (VAMOS) 13.95%, Edmond MULET (PHG) 11.21%, Thelma CABRERA (MLP) 10.37%, Roberto ARZU (PAN-PODEMOS) 6.08%; percent of vote in second round – Alejandro GIAMMATTEI (VAMOS) 58%, Sandra TORRES (UNE) 42%

Legislative Branch

description: unicameral Congress of the Republic or Congreso de la Republica (158 seats; 127 members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies in the country’s 22 departments by simple majority vote and 31 directly elected in a single nationwide constituency by closed-list, proportional representation vote; members serve 4-year terms); note – two additional seats will be added to the new congress when it is seated in January 2020

elections: last held on 16 June 2019 (next to be held on June 2023)

election results: percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – UNE 53, VAMOS 16, UCN 12, VALOR 9, BIEN 8, FCN-NACION 8, SEMILLA 7, TODOS 7, VIVA 7, CREO 6, PHG 6, VICTORIA 4, Winaq 4, PC 3, PU 3, URNG 3, PAN 2, MLP 1, PODEMOS 1

note: current seats by party as of 1 June 2019 – FCN 37, UNE 32, MR 20, TODOS 17, AC 12, EG 7, UCN 6, CREO 5, LIDER 5, VIVA 4, Convergence 3, PAN 3, PP 2, FUERZA 1, PU 1, URNG 1, Winaq 1, independent 1; composition – men 136, women 22, percent of women 13.9%

Judicial Branch

highest courts: Supreme Court of Justice or Corte Suprema de Justicia (consists of 13 magistrates, including the court president and organized into 3 chambers); note – the court president also supervises trial judges countrywide; Constitutional Court or Corte de Constitucionalidad (consists of 5 titular magistrates and 5 substitute magistrates)

judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court magistrates elected by the Congress of the Republic from candidates proposed by the Postulation Committee, an independent body of deans of the country’s university law schools, representatives of the country’s law associations, and representatives of the Courts of Appeal; magistrates elected for concurrent, renewable 5-year terms; Constitutional Court judges – 1 elected by the Congress of the Republic, 1 by the Supreme Court, 1 by the president of the republic, 1 by the (public) University of San Carlos, and 1 by the Assembly of the College of Attorneys and Notaries; judges elected for renewable, consecutive 5-year terms; the presidency of the court rotates among the magistrates for a single 1-year term

subordinate courts: numerous first instance and appellate courts

Political parties and leaders

  • Bienestar Nacional or BIEN [Alfonso PORTILLO and Evelyn MORATAYA]
  • Citizen Alliance or AC
  • Citizen Prosperity or PC [Dami Anita Elizabeth KRISTENSON Sales]
  • Commitment, Renewal, and Order or CREO [Roberto GONZALEZ Diaz-Duran]
  • Convergence [Sandra MORAN]
  • Encounter for Guatemala or EG [Nineth MONTENEGRO Cottom]
  • Everyone Together for Guatemala or TODOS [Felipe ALEJOS]
  • Force or FUERZA [Mauricio RADFORD]
  • Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity or URNG-MAIZ or URNG [Gregorio CHAY Laynez]
  • Humanist Party of Guatemala or PHG [Edmond MULET]
  • Movement for the Liberation of Peoples or MLP [Thelma CABRERA]
  • Movimiento Semilla or SEMILLA [Thelma ALDANA]
  • National Advancement Party or PAN [Harald JOHANNESSEN]
  • National Convergence Front or FCN-NACION or FCN [Jimmy MORALES]
  • National Unity for Hope or UNE [Sandra TORRES]
  • Nationalist Change Union or UCN [Mario ESTRADA]
  • Patriotic Party or PP
  • PODEMOS [Jose Raul VIRGIL Arias]
  • Political Movement Winaq or Winaq [Sonia GUTIERREZ Raguay]
  • Reform Movement or MR
  • Renewed Democratic Liberty or LIDER (dissolved mid-February 2016)
  • TODOS [Felipe ALEJOS]
  • Unionista Party or PU [Alvaro ARZU Escobar]
  • Value or VALOR [Zury RIOS]
  • Vamos por una Guatemala Diferente or VAMOS [Alejandro GIAMMATTEI]
  • Victory or VICTORIA [Amilcar RIVERA]
  • Vision with Values or VIVA [Armando Damian CASTILLO Alvarado]

note: parties represented in the last election, but have since dissolved – FCN (2017), LIDER (2016), and PP (2017)

Economy

Guatemala is the most populous country in Central America with a GDP per capita roughly half the average for Latin America and the Caribbean. The agricultural sector accounts for 13.5% of GDP and 31% of the labor force; key agricultural exports include sugar, coffee, bananas, and vegetables. Guatemala is the top remittance recipient in Central America as a result of Guatemala’s large expatriate community in the US. These inflows are a primary source of foreign income, equivalent to two-thirds of the country’s exports and about a tenth of its GDP.

The 1996 peace accords, which ended 36 years of civil war, removed a major obstacle to foreign investment, and Guatemala has since pursued important reforms and macroeconomic stabilization. The Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) 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-DR 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 20% of the population accounting for more than 51% of Guatemala’s overall consumption. More than half of the population is below the national poverty line, and 23% of the population lives in extreme poverty. Poverty among indigenous groups, which make up more than 40% of the population, averages 79%, with 40% of the indigenous population living in extreme poverty. Nearly one-half of Guatemala’s children under age five are chronically malnourished, one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world.

Annual percentage GDP growth in Guatemala from 1961 to 2018 / World Bank / CC BY-40
GDP of Guatemala in current US dollars from 1960 to 2018 / World Bank / CC BY-4.0
Annual percentage growth of GDP per capita in Guatemala from 1961 to 2018 / World Bank / CC BY-4.0
GDP per capita in current US dollars in Guatemala from 1960 to 2018 / World Bank / CC BY-4.0
Annual percentage inflation (GDP deflator) in Guatemala from 1961 to 2018 / World Bank / CC BY-4.0

Unless otherwise specified, the information above comes from the Central Intelligence Agency’s The World Factbook. All photos and text reproduced here are in the public domain.

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