Guatemela background information

Socio-Political Conditions

Inefficiency, corruption and lack of accountability at the level of public institutions continue to present challenges to the work of political and civil society reform that began when Guatemala began democratization in 1996.

While significant advances have been made since the country emerged from a 36-year civil war – the longest in Latin American history – the country has the unfortunate distinction of having one of the highest violent crime rates in the region.

The human rights record has improved dramatically; however, numerous reports cite incidents of extrajudicial killings and harassment of campesino rights workers, union activists and journalists. These incidents have occurred in an environment of virtual impunity.

According to information posted on the US State Department's website, judicial institutions are considered to be "unresponsive and ineffectual." Many rights groups have alleged enforcement officials' complicity in a number of extra-judicial acts.

The UN-joint International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) was inaugurated in 2008 to address a history of egregious abuse by previous dictatorial governments during the war.

CICIG's mandate to "support, strengthen and assist Guatemalan institutions to uphold the rule of law" includes investigating and prosecuting those involved in crimes against political activists, human rights defenders, journalists, women, children, and indigenous communities.

A history of discrimination and human rights abuses against the country's indigenous peoples is one of the largest issues facing the mining industry's presence in Guatemala.

Signed & ratified international environmental agreements

  • 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 international human rights agreements

  • International Labor Organization's (ILO) Convention 169 (C 169) on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples
  • International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (known by its Spanish acronym, CICIG, and founded on a treaty-level agreement with the UN)


Economic Activity, Trade & Investment

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), "Guatemala has the broadest economic base and is the largest economy in Central America."

Foreign investment has grown significantly since the signing of peace accords in 1996. Canadian exports to the country totaled over CAD$152 million in 2008, with imports at approximately around CAD$265 million.

According to the US State Department's website, Guatemala's "real" GDP was estimated at $25.65 billion with an estimated 4.0% growth rate for the same year and per capita GDP at $4900.

In 2009, Guatemala's GDP was estimated at $23.7 billion with an estimated 0.6% growth rate for the same year.

Manufacturing accounts for 18.3% and agriculture for 13.4% of the GDP. The mining sector amounts to less than 1% of GDP; however, the country imported over US$14.5 billion in machinery and equipment, fuels, mineral products, chemical products, vehicles, transport materials, plastic materials and products in 2008.

The Canada - Central America Four (CA4) free trade agreement is currently being negotiated with Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, and should conclude by the end of 2010.


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