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Guatemala

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Country Statistics:

  • Total Population: 13,824,463 (2011)
  • Median age: 20 years (2011)
  • Life Expectancy: 71 years (2011)
  • Per capita income(ppp): $5,200 USD (2010)
  • Ethnicities:
    -Mestizo/European 59.4%; K'iche 9.1%; Kaqchikel 8.4%; Mam 7.9%; Q'eqchi 6.3%; other Mayan 8.6%; non-Mayan indigenous 0.2%
  • Major exports: coffee, bananas, sugar, crude oil, chemical products, textiles, vegetables
  • Monetary unit: 1 USD ~ 7.5 Quetzales

Background

boy with horseGuatemala's modern experiment with democracy and land reform ended fifty some years ago (June 1954) when the U.S. Eisenhower administration authorized the CIA coup that condemned Guatemala to decades of repressive military dictatorships. The signing of Peace Accords in 1996 formally ended 32 years of civil war and have allowed Guatemalans to experience increasing access to information and participate in an internal discussion about important national issues. Nevertheless, a half-century of bad habits die hard. State structures are weak and corrupt. The Guatemalan military and the U.S. embassy remain the power behind the throne. A preoccupation with protecting the interests of big business and large landowners means that social programs and the real-life problems of Guatemalans go all but ignored, and the good intentions of individuals at many levels of government are often blocked. The levels of criminal delinquency and the cruelty of their acts are rising at an alarming rate and are becoming more generalized across the country. The local population increasingly voices growing insecurity and less satisfaction with the course the country is taking. The more things change in Guatemala, the more it seems that they remain the same.

Poverty is still a major problem for more than half of the population; almost 25% of the population lives in extreme poverty. In addition, social indicators are among the worst in Central America in terms of social public expenditure, access to health and basic services, education, child and maternal mortality rates, distribution of wealth and land. Indigenous peoples, who constitute 50% of the population – one of the highest rates in Latin America - suffer from strong racial, social, economic and Hazy mountaincultural discrimination. Seven indigenous people out of ten are poor and live on the margins of the society. An estimated 67% of indigenous children (with the indigenous representing the majority of the population) suffer from chronic malnutrition.

The lack of national policies coupled with international coffee prices that often won’t even cover the costs of production, leaves the country on shaky ground. To make matters worse, many regions lost up to 30 percent of their production with the passing of Hurricane Stan in late 2005. Guatemala is a major producer of high quality, washed arabicas. Some 270,000 hectares are planted with coffee and account for about 24% of all exports. Yet smallholder coffee farmers produce only 30 percent of the total volume. The majority of coffee production and export continues to be dominated by the large plantation owners.

Resources:

CIA World Factbook

US State Department Profile

UNICEF

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