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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 conflict, which had left more than 100,000 people dead and had created some 1 million refugees.


Central America, bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between El Salvador and Mexico, and bordering the Gulf of Honduras (Caribbean Sea) between Honduras and Belize

Geographic coordinates:

15 30 N, 90 15 W


total: 108,890 sq km
land: 108,430 sq km
water: 460 sq km

Land boundaries:

total: 1,687 km
border countries: Belize 266 km, El Salvador 203 km, Honduras 256 km, Mexico 962 km


400 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation


tropical; hot, humid in lowlands; cooler in highlands


mostly mountains with narrow coastal plains and rolling limestone plateau

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Volcan Tajumulco 4,211 m

Natural resources:

petroleum, nickel, rare woods, fish, chicle, hydropower

Land use:

arable land: 13.22%
permanent crops: 5.6%
other: 81.18% (2005)

Irrigated land:

1,300 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards:

numerous volcanoes in mountains, with occasional violent earthquakes; Caribbean coast extremely susceptible to hurricanes and other tropical storms

Environment - current issues:

deforestation in the Peten rainforest; soil erosion; water pollution

Geography - note:

no natural harbors on west coast


12,293,545 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 41.1% (male 2,573,359/female 2,479,098)
15-64 years: 55.5% (male 3,353,630/female 3,468,184)
65 years and over: 3.4% (male 194,784/female 224,490) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 18.9 years
male: 18.5 years
female: 19.4 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

2.27% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

29.88 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

5.2 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

-1.94 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.87 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 30.94 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 33.55 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 28.2 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 69.38 years
male: 67.65 years
female: 71.18 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

3.82 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

1.1% (2003 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

78,000 (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

5,800 (2003 est.)


noun: Guatemalan(s)
adjective: Guatemalan

Ethnic groups:

Mestizo (mixed Amerindian-Spanish - in local Spanish called Ladino) 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 census)


Roman Catholic, Protestant, indigenous Mayan beliefs


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


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 70.6%
male: 78%
female: 63.3% (2003 est.)

Country name:

conventional long form: Republic of Guatemala
conventional short form: Guatemala
local long form: Republica de Guatemala
local short form: Guatemala

Government type:

constitutional democratic republic



Administrative divisions:

22 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento); Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz, Chimaltenango, Chiquimula, El Progreso, Escuintla, Guatemala, Huehuetenango, Izabal, Jalapa, Jutiapa, Peten, Quetzaltenango, Quiche, Retalhuleu, Sacatepequez, San Marcos, Santa Rosa, Solola, Suchitepequez, Totonicapan, Zacapa


15 September 1821 (from Spain)

National holiday:

Independence Day, 15 September (1821)


31 May 1985, effective 14 January 1986; note - suspended 25 May 1993 by former President Jorge SERRANO; reinstated 5 June 1993 following ouster of president; amended November 1993

Legal system:

civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction


18 years of age; universal (active duty members of the armed forces may not vote and are restricted to their barracks on election day)

Legislative branch:

unicameral Congress of the Republic or Congreso de la Republica (158 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 9 November 2003 (next to be held September 2007)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - GANA 49, FRG 41, UNE 33, PAN 17, other 18
note: for the 9 November 2003 election, the number of congressional seats increased from 113 to 158

Judicial branch:

Constitutional Court or Corte de Constitutcionalidad is Guatemala's highest court (five judges are elected for concurrent five-year terms by Congress, each serving one year as president of the Constitutional Court; one is elected by Congress, one elected by the Supreme Court of Justice, one appointed by the president, one elected by Superior Counsel of Universidad San Carlos de Guatemala, and one by Colegio de Abogados); Supreme Court of Justice or Corte Suprema de Justicia (13 members serve concurrent five-year terms and elect a president of the Court each year from among their number; the president of the Supreme Court of Justice also supervises trial judges around the country, who are named to five-year terms)

Economy - overview:

Guatemala is the largest and most populous of the Central American countries with a GDP per capita roughly one-half that of Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. The agricultural sector accounts for about one-fourth of GDP, two-thirds of exports, and half of the labor force. Coffee, sugar, and bananas are the main products. The 1996 signing of peace accords, which ended 36 years of civil war, removed a major obstacle to foreign investment, but widespread political violence and corruption scandals continue to dampen investor confidence. The distribution of income remains highly unequal with perhaps 75% of the population below the poverty line. Other ongoing challenges include increasing government revenues, negotiating further assistance from international donors, upgrading both government and private financial operations, curtailing drug trafficking, and narrowing the trade deficit.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$62.97 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$27.58 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

3.1% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$5,200 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 22.8%
industry: 19.1%
services: 58.1% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

3.76 million (2005 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 50%
industry: 15%
services: 35% (1999 est.)

Unemployment rate:

7.5% (2003 est.)

Population below poverty line:

75% (2004 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 1.6%
highest 10%: 46% (1998)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

48.3 (2000)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

9.1% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

15.5% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $3.374 billion
expenditures: $4.041 billion; including capital expenditures of $750 million (2005 est.)

Public debt:

26.9% of GDP (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

sugarcane, corn, bananas, coffee, beans, cardamom; cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens


sugar, textiles and clothing, furniture, chemicals, petroleum, metals, rubber, tourism

Industrial production growth rate:

4.1% (1999)

Electricity - production:

6.898 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

6.025 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - exports:

425 million kWh (2003)

Electricity - imports:

35 million kWh (2003)

Oil - production:

22,300 bbl/day (2005 est.)

Oil - consumption:

66,000 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Oil - exports:

3,104 bbl/day (2003)

Oil - proved reserves:

263 million bbl (1 January 2002)

Natural gas - proved reserves:

3.087 billion cu m (1 January 2002)

Current account balance:

-$1.236 billion (2005 est.)


$3.94 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

coffee, sugar, petroleum, apparel, bananas, fruits and vegetables, cardamom

Exports - partners:

US 53%, El Salvador 11.4%, Honduras 7.1%, Mexico 4.1% (2004)


$7.744 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

fuels, machinery and transport equipment, construction materials, grain, fertilizers, electricity

Imports - partners:

US 34%, Mexico 8.1%, South Korea 6.8%, China 6.6%, Japan 4.4% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$3.764 billion (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$5.503 billion (2005 est.)

Economic aid - recipient:

$250 million (2000 est.)

Currency (code):

quetzal (GTQ), US dollar (USD), others allowed

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

1,132,100 (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

3,168,300 (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: fairly modern network centered in the city of Guatemala
domestic: NA
international: country code - 502; connected to Central American Microwave System; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 130, FM 487, shortwave 15 (2000)

Television broadcast stations:

26 (plus 27 repeaters) (1997)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

40,405 (2005)

Internet users:

756,000 (2005)


449 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 11
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 4
under 914 m: 2 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 438
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 8
914 to 1,523 m: 110
under 914 m: 319 (2005)


oil 480 km (2004)


total: 886 km
narrow gauge: 886 km 0.914-m gauge (2004)


total: 14,095 km
paved: 4,863 km (including 75 km of expressways)
unpaved: 9,232 km (1999)


990 km
note: 260 km navigable year round; additional 730 km navigable during high-water season (2004)

Ports and terminals:

Puerto Quetzal, Santo Tomas de Castilla

Military branches:

Army, Navy (includes Marines), Air Force

Disputes - international:

Guatemalan squatters continue to settle in the rain forests of Belize's border region; Organization of American States (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

Refugees and internally displaced persons:

IDPs: 250,000 (government's scorched-earth offensive in 1980s against indigenous people) 30,000 (Hurricane "Stan" October 2005) (2005)

Illicit drugs:

major transit country for cocaine and heroin; in 2004, reemerged as a potential source of opium, growing 330 hectares of opium poppy, with potential pure heroin production of 1.4 metric tons; 76% of opium poppy cultivation in western highlands along Mexican border; marijuana cultivation for mostly domestic consumption; proximity to Mexico makes Guatemala a major staging area for drugs (particularly for cocaine); money laundering is a serious problem; corruption is a major problem; remains on Financial Action Task Force Non-Cooperative Countries and Territories List for continued failure to address deficiencies in money-laundering control regime