State and politics
Guatemala is governed by a president who is both head of
state and government, as well as commander-in-chief and who
himself appoints his ministers. The term of office is four
years and the president cannot be re-elected. The congress
consists of a chamber with 158 members, who are also elected
for four years. A member may be re-elected once after a
termination of office.
The country of Guatemala is divided into 22 provinces governed by a
government appointed by the government. The more than 330
municipalities are governed by elected mayors. The right to
vote includes everyone who has reached the age of 18. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how GT can stand for Guatemala.
After 36 years of civil war that left 200,000 dead and
over 1 million refugees, a peace agreement was signed in
1996 between President Alvaro Arzú (1946–2018) and the URNG
guerrilla. The agreement was aimed at strengthening
democracy and guaranteeing respect for human rights.
Despite the existence of the peace agreement, the
contradictions in society did not decrease. The subsequent
term of office meant further corruption and persecution of
lawyers who tried to drive processes against the military,
critical journalists and human rights activists.
The pursuit of dissent and opposition was led by the
right-wing Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG),
founded by former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, whose
presidential candidate Alfonso Portillo Cabrera (born 1951)
won the 1999 election.
Only during the presidency of Óscar Berger's (2004–08)
presidency did a series of charges of corruption and abuse
of power be opened against former government members and
The 2007 election campaign became very violent and about
50 candidates and election workers were murdered. A center –
left alliance, the Unión Nacional de la Esperanza
(UNE), became the largest party in Congress and its
candidate Álvaro Colom (born 1951) was elected president.
The alliance was a collaboration between the former URNG
guerrillas and other political parties. The election was a
milestone in Guatemala's political history when it was the
first time since the 1954 military coup that a leftist group
Former General Otto Pérez Molina (born 1950) from the
right-wing party Partido Patriota (PP) took office
as president in 2012. Molina made the choice to stop the
growing crime in the country, mainly by training more police
and having more soldiers out in society.
Molina's first term as president became troubled, with
widespread protests in several parts of Guatemala. At a
demonstration in late 2012, the military killed six people.
In 2013, the government introduced a state of emergency in a
region following new violent clashes. After a comprehensive
corruption deal was unveiled, involving ministers, among
other things, protests around the country grew, demanding
the resignation of the government and the president. When a
court issued a warrant for Molina, he resigned himself.
The subsequent 2015 election was won by comedian Jimmy
Morales who won a lot of support by presenting himself as a
candidate based on the traditional establishment. Under
Morale's leadership, Guatemala, like the United States,
moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The decision
was highly controversial as a united international
community, including the United States, previously held the
position that Jerusalem's status should be decided in peace
talks between Israel and Palestine. Foreign embassies and
consulates in Israel have therefore been located in Tel
Morales was suspected of being involved in widespread
corruption, with a UN-led commission seeking to lift the
president's prosecutorial immunity. However, this failed
when Morales did his utmost to make the Commission's
investigation more difficult and no verdict has fallen.
In the 2019 presidential election, Vamo's
candidate Alejandro Giammattei won. He won the second round
of the election against Sandra Torres (born 1955) from UNE
with just under 60 percent of the vote. Giammattei took
office in January 2020.
See also History.
Guatemala and Belize
Guatemala has had a long-standing conflict with
neighboring Belize as its country's leader ever since
Guatemala declared its independence from Spain in 1821.
Parts of what is now Belize were then occupied by Britain
and the area was therefore called British Honduras and in
turn became independent from Britain only in 1981. Guatemala
refused to accept the neighboring country as a sovereign
state, but after negotiations, Guatemala in 1991 recognized
the nation of Belize and released the requirement for the
area to be incorporated into Guatemala.
However, the conflict has continued and Guatemala
requires border adjustments. In 2013, the countries agreed
to let the international court in The Hague decide the
Guatemala's law is, for the most part, codified, mainly
in the Civil Code, the Commerce Act, the Civil Procedure
Act, the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Act. The
judicial process lies in the hands of small-scale judges
(peace judges), general courts, an appellate court and a
supreme court. There is also an administrative court, whose
rulings can, however, be appealed to the Supreme Court, as
well as a number of other judicial bodies, e.g. tax courts,
military courts and social insurance courts. The death
penalty can be punished for some serious crimes.
The people of Guatemala are severely affected by poverty
and political instability as a result of the long and
violent civil war the country suffered for 36 years (see
Despite the serious human rights violations committed by
the military during the war, it continued to play a key role
in domestic politics during the 2000s. A state of emergency
has been declared on a number of occasions.
Violence, corruption and impunity are common and
organized crime is widespread. Judicial officials, human
rights defenders and journalists are threatened, attacked
Freedom of speech and media is prescribed in the
country's constitution, but self-censorship is common,
mainly on sensitive topics such as corruption, economic
crime or the drug-related organized crime. In Reporters
Without Borders Press Freedom Index for 2015, Guatemala is
ranked 124 out of 180 countries surveyed.
The position of women is weak and the widespread violence
against women rarely leads to prosecution. Patriarchal
attitudes and stereotypical perceptions of women's role
permeate society. According to Human Rights Watch, rape and
sexual abuse of women increased by 34 percent in 2008-11
while nine out of ten perpetrators went free. Sexual
harassment is not prohibited by Guatemalan law and
particularly vulnerable are indigenous women and women who
work as maids or in the agricultural sector. Although gender
equality is enshrined in the constitution, women are
significantly discriminated against both in the labor market
and financially. Abortion is not allowed except when the
mother's life is at stake.
The minimum age for professional work is 14 years, but
reports indicate that just over 20 percent of children
between the ages of 5 and 14 are forced into child labor.
Children are also exploited in sex tourism, child
pornography and organized crime. The country's street
children are particularly vulnerable to ruthless treatment
and human trafficking. UNICEF estimates that two-thirds of
children live in poverty and half of all children under five
are chronically malnourished.
Guatemala's many indigenous peoples (see Population and
Ethnography) are particularly vulnerable to racism and
discrimination. Access to community services, health care,
clean water and education is made more difficult for these
groups, which make up half of the country's total
population. A large part of the country's internal conflicts
relate to the indigenous peoples' limited opportunities to
own land, which in escalations escalated into outright
Hate crimes and structural discrimination against LGBTQ
people occur and the worst affected are transgender people.
In 2012, twelve murders related to hate crimes were
reported, but the number of blacks is expected to be high.
For people with disabilities, access to community
services, education and work is limited.
Heads of State
||Mariano Rivera Paz
||José Venancio López
||Mariano Rivera Paz
||José Rafael Carrera
||Juan Antonio Martínez
||José Bernardo Escobar
||José Rafael Carrera
||Pedro de Aycinena
||Miguel García Granados
||Justo Rufino Barrios
||Alejandro M. Sinibaldi
||Manuel Lisandro Barillas
||José María Barrios
||Manuel Estrada Cabrera
||José María Orellana
||José María Reina
||Federico Ponce Vaides
||Juan José Arévalo
||Carlos Enrique Díaz
||Elfego H. Monzón
||Carlos Castillo Armas
||Luis González López
||Guillermo Flores Avendaño
||Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes
||Enrique Peralta Azurdia
||Julio César Méndez Montenegro
||Carlos Arana Osorio
||Kjell Eugenio Laugerud García
||Fernando Romeo Lucas García
||Efraín Rios Montt
||Oscar Humberto Mejía Victores
||Jorge Serrano Elías
||Ramiro de León Carpio
||Álvaro Arzú Irigoyen
||Alfonso Portillo Cabrera
||Álvaro Colom Caballeros
||Otto Pérez Molina
||Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre