Facts and figures on Guatemala.
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National name: República de Guatemala

President: Oscar Berger (2004)

Land area: 41,865 sq mi (108,430 sq km); total area: 42,042 sq mi (108,890 sq km)

Population (2006 est.): 12,293,545 (growth rate: 2.3%); birth rate: 29.9/1000; infant mortality rate: 30.9/1000; life expectancy: 69.4; density per sq mi: 294

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Guatemala City, 2,655,900 (metro. area), 1,128,800 (city proper)

Other large cities: Mixco, 287,600; Villa Nueva, 138,900

Monetary unit: Quetzal

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

Ethnicity/race: Mestizo (Ladino)—mixed Amerindian-Spanish ancestry—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)

Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, indigenous Mayan beliefs

Literacy rate: 71% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2005 est.): $62.97 billion; per capita $5,200. Real growth rate: 3.1%. Inflation: 9.1%. Unemployment: 7.5% (2003 est.). Arable land: 13%. Agriculture: sugarcane, corn, bananas, coffee, beans, cardamom; cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens. Labor force: 3.76 million; agriculture 50%, industry 15%, services 35% (1999 est.). Industries: sugar, textiles and clothing, furniture, chemicals, petroleum, metals, rubber, tourism. Natural resources: petroleum, nickel, rare woods, fish, chicle, hydropower. Exports: $3.94 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): coffee, sugar, petroleum, apparel, bananas, fruits and vegetables, cardamom. Imports: $7.744 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): fuels, machinery and transport equipment, construction materials, grain, fertilizers, electricity. Major trading partners: U.S., El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, South Korea, China, Japan (2004).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 846,000 (2002); mobile cellular: 1,577,100 (2002). Radio broadcast stations: AM 130, FM 487, shortwave 15 (2000). Television broadcast stations: 26 (plus 27 repeaters) (1997). Internet hosts: 20,360 (2003). Internet users: 400,000 (2002).

Transportation: Railways: total: 886 km (2004). Highways: total: 14,118 km; paved: 4,871 km (including 74 km of expressways); unpaved: 9,247 km (1999). Waterways: 990 km; note: 260 km navigable year round; additional 730 km navigable during high-water season (2004). Ports and harbors: Puerto Quetzal, Santo Tomas de Castilla. Airports: 452 (2004 est.).

International disputes: Guatemalan squatters continue to settle in the rain forests of Belize's border region; OAS is attempting to revive the 2002 failed Differendum that created a small adjustment to land boundary, a Guatemalan maritime corridor in Caribbean, a joint ecological park for the disputed Sapodilla Cays, and a substantial US-UK financial package; Guatemalans enter Mexico illegally seeking work or transit to the US.


The northernmost of the Central American nations, Guatemala is the size of Tennessee. Its neighbors are Mexico on the north and west, and Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador on the east. The country consists of three main regions--the cool highlands with the heaviest population, the tropical area along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, and the tropical jungle in the northern lowlands (known as the Petén).


Constitutional democratic republic.


Once the site of the impressive ancient Mayan civilization, Guatemala was conquered by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado in 1524 and became a republic in 1839 after the United Provinces of Central America collapsed. From 1898 to 1920, dictator Manuel Estrada Cabrera ran the country, and from 1931 to 1944, Gen. Jorge Ubico Castaneda served as strongman.

After Ubico's overthrow in 1944 by the "October Revolutionaries," a group of left-leaning students and professionals, liberal-democratic coalitions led by Juan José Arévalo (1945-1951) and Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán (1951-1954) instituted social and political reforms that strengthened the peasantry and urban workers at the expense of the military and big landowners, like the U.S.-owned United Fruit Company. With covert U.S. backing, Col. Carlos Castillo Armas led a coup in 1954, and Arbenz took refuge in Mexico. A series of repressive regimes followed, and by 1960 the country was plunged into a civil war between military governments, right-wing vigilante groups, and leftist rebels that would last 36 years, the longest civil war in Latin American history. Death squads murdered an estimated 50,000 leftists and political opponents during the 1970s. In 1977, the U.S. cut off military aid to the country because of its egregious human rights abuses. The indigenous Mayan Indians were singled out for special brutality by the right-wing death squads. By the end of the war, 200,000 citizens were dead.

A succession of military juntas dominated during the civil war, until a new constitution was passed and civilian Marco Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo was elected and took office in 1986. He was followed by Jorge Serrano Elías in 1991. In 1993, Serrano moved to dissolve Congress and the Supreme Court and suspend constitutional rights, but the military deposed Serrano and allowed the inauguration of Ramiro de Leon Carpio, the former attorney general for human rights. A peace agreement was finally signed in Dec. 1996 by President Álvaro Arzú Irigoyen.

In 1999, a Guatemalan truth commission blamed the army for 93% of the atrocities and the rebels (the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit) for 3%. The former guerrillas apologized for their crimes, and President Clinton apologized for U.S. support of the right-wing military governments. The army has not acknowledged its guilt. Alfonso Portillo Cabrera, closely associated with the former dictatorship of Efrain Rios Montt (1982-1983), became president in Jan. 2000. In Aug. 2000, Portillo apologized for the former government's human rights abuses and pledged to prosecute those responsible and compensate victims.

To stimulate the economy, Guatemala, along with El Salvador and Honduras, signed a free trade agreement with Mexico in June 2000. In Aug. 2001, plans for tax increases prompted widespread, and often violent, protests.

In July 2003, the country's highest court ruled that former coup leader and military dictator Rios Montt, responsible for the massacre of tens of thousands of civilians during the civil war, was eligible to run for president in November. The ruling conflicted with the constitution, which bans anyone who seized power in a coup from running for the presidency. But in November, Rios Montt was soundly defeated by two candidates, conservative Oscar Berger and center-leftist Alvaro Colom. In the runoff election in December, Berger was elected president.

In 2004, Guatemala experienced an alarmingly violent crime wave. More than 2,000 murders took place, which were blamed on crime gangs and bands of teenagers.

In 2005, the government ratified a free-trade agreement (CAFTA) with the U.S.

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