Guatemala

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PAGE LAST UPDATED ON NOVEMBER 10, 2011
Flag of Guatemala
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Location of Guatemala
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Map of Guatemala
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Photos of Guatemala
 
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OF GUATEMALA
 

Introduction

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The Mayan 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, by some estimates, some 1 million refugees.
 
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Geography

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Central America, bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between El Salvador and Mexico, and bordering the Gulf of Honduras (Caribbean Sea) between Honduras and Belize
 
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15 30 N, 90 15 W
 
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total: 108,889 sq km
country comparison to the world: 107
land: 107,159 sq km
water: 1,730 sq km
 
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slightly smaller than Tennessee
 
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total: 1,687 km
border countries: Belize 266 km, El Salvador 203 km, Honduras 256 km, Mexico 962 km
 
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400 km
 
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territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 m depth or to the depth of exploitation
 
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tropical; hot, humid in lowlands; cooler in highlands
 
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mostly mountains with narrow coastal plains and rolling limestone plateau
 
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lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Volcan Tajumulco 4,211 m
note: highest point in Central America
 
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petroleum, nickel, rare woods, fish, chicle, hydropower
 
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arable land: 13.22%
permanent crops: 5.6%
other: 81.18% (2005)
 
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2,000 sq km (2008)
 
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111.3 cu km (2000)
 
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total: 2.01 cu km/yr (6%/13%/80%)
per capita: 160 cu m/yr (2000)
 
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numerous volcanoes in mountains, with occasional violent earthquakes; Caribbean coast extremely susceptible to hurricanes and other tropical storms
volcanism: Guatemala experiences significant volcanic activity in the Sierra Madre range; Santa Maria (elev. 3,772 m) has been deemed a "Decade Volcano" by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior, worthy of study due to its explosive history and close proximity to human populations; Pacaya (elev. 2,552 m), which erupted in May 2010 causing an ashfall on Guatemala City and prompting evacuations, is one of the country's most active volcanoes; the volcano has frequently been in eruption since 1965; other historically active volcanoes include Acatenango, Almolonga, Atitlan, Fuego, and Tacana
 
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deforestation in the Peten rainforest; soil erosion; water pollution
 
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party to: 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, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
 
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no natural harbors on west coast
 
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People and Society

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noun: Guatemalan(s)
adjective: Guatemalan
 
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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)
 
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Spanish (official) 60%, Amerindian languages 40%
note: there are 23 officially recognized Amerindian languages, including Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna, and Xinca
 
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Roman Catholic, Protestant, indigenous Mayan beliefs
 
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13,824,463 (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 69
 
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0-14 years: 38.1% (male 2,678,340/female 2,582,472)
15-64 years: 58% (male 3,889,573/female 4,130,698)
65 years and over: 3.9% (male 252,108/female 291,272) (2011 est.)
 
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total: 20 years
male: 19.4 years
female: 20.7 years (2011 est.)
 
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1.986% (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 54
 
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26.96 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 48
 
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4.98 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 186
 
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-2.12 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 166
 
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urban population: 49% of total population (2010)
rate of urbanization: 3.4% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
 
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GUATEMALA CITY (capital) 1.075 million (2009)
 
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at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2011 est.)
 
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110 deaths/100,000 live births (2008)
country comparison to the world: 65
 
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total: 26.02 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 78
male: 28.26 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 23.67 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)
 
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total population: 70.88 years
country comparison to the world: 143
male: 69.03 years
female: 72.83 years (2011 est.)
 
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3.27 children born/woman (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 50
 
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5.7% of GDP (2009)
country comparison to the world: 120
 
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0.9 physicians/1,000 population (1999)
country comparison to the world: 107
 
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0.6 beds/1,000 population (2009)
country comparison to the world: 163
 
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improved:
urban: 98% of population
rural: 90% of population
total: 94% of population
unimproved:
urban: 2% of population
rural: 10% of population
total: 6% of population (2008)
 
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improved:
urban: 89% of population
rural: 73% of population
total: 81% of population
unimproved:
urban: 11% of population
rural: 27% of population
total: 19% of population (2008)
 
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0.8% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 58
 
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62,000 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 53
 
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2,600 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 49
 
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degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: dengue fever and malaria
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2009)
 
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17.7% (2002)
country comparison to the world: 42
 
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3.2% of GDP (2008)
country comparison to the world: 125
 
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definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 69.1%
male: 75.4%
female: 63.3% (2002 census)
 
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total: 11 years
male: 11 years
female: 10 years (2007)
 
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Government

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conventional long form: Republic of Guatemala
conventional short form: Guatemala
local long form: Republica de Guatemala
local short form: Guatemala
 
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constitutional democratic republic
 
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name: Guatemala City
geographic coordinates: 14 37 N, 90 31 W
time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC during Standard Time)
 
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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
 
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15 September 1821 (from Spain)
 
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Independence Day, 15 September (1821)
 
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31 May 1985, effective 14 January 1986; suspended 25 May 1993; reinstated 5 June 1993; amended November 1993
 
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civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts
 
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has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
 
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18 years of age; universal; note - active duty members of the armed forces may not vote and are restricted to their barracks on election day
 
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chief of state: President Alvaro COLOM Caballeros (since 14 January 2008); Vice President Jose Rafael ESPADA (since 14 January 2008); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Alvaro COLOM Caballeros (since 14 January 2008); Vice President Jose Rafael ESPADA (since 14 January 2008)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
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elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a four-year term (may not serve consecutive terms); election last held on 9 September 2007; runoff held on 4 November 2007 (next to be held in September 2011)
election results: Alvaro COLOM Caballeros elected president; percent of vote - Alvaro COLOM Caballeros 52.8%, Otto PEREZ Molina 47.2%
 
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unicameral Congress of the Republic or Congreso de la Republica (158 seats; members elected through a party list proportional representation system)
elections: last held on 9 September 2007 (next to be held in September 2011)
election results: percent of vote by party - UNE 30.4%, GANA 23.4%, PP 18.9%, FRG 9.5%, PU 5.1%, other 12.7%; seats by party - UNE 48, GANA 37, PP 30, FRG 15, PU 8, CASA 5, EG 4, PAN 4, UCN 4, URNG 2, UD 1
 
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Constitutional Court or Corte de Constitucionalidad is Guatemala's highest court (five judges are elected by Congress for concurrent five-year terms); Supreme Court of Justice or Corte Suprema de Justicia (13 members are elected by Congress to 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)
 
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Center of Social Action or CASA [Feliz Adolfo RUANO de Leon]; Democracy Front or FRENTE [Alfonso CABRERA]; Democratic Union or UD [Edwin Armando MARTINEZ Herrera]; Encounter for Guatemala or EG [Nineth MONTENGRO]; Grand National Alliance or GANA [Jaime Antonio MARTINEZ Lohayza]; Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity or URNG [Hector Alfredo NUILA Ericastilla]; Guatemalan Republican Front or FRG [Luis Fernando PEREZ]; Independent Bloc Guatemala or BG [Macario Efrain OLIVA Muralles]; Independent Democratic Freedom Renewed or LIDER [Manuel BALDIZON]; National Advancement Party or PAN [Juan GUTIERREZ]; National Unity for Hope or UNE [Roberto KESTLER Velasquez]; Nationalist Change Union or UCN [Mario ESTRADA]; Patriot Party or PP [Ingrid Roxana BALDETTI Elias]; Unionista Party or PU [Alvaro ARZU Irigoyen]
 
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Agrarian Owners Group or UNAGRO; Alliance Against Impunity or AAI; Committee for Campesino Unity or CUC; Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial, and Financial Associations or CACIF; International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala or CICIG; Mutual Support Group or GAM
 
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BCIE, CACM, FAO, G-24, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAES, LAIA (observer), MIGA, MINUSTAH, MONUSCO, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, PetroCaribe, RG, SICA, UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNIFIL, Union Latina, UNISFA, UNITAR, UNMISS, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
 
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chief of mission: Ambassador Julio Armando MARTINI Herrera
chancery: 2220 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 745-4952
FAX: [1] (202) 745-1908
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Phoenix, Providence, San Francisco
 
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chief of mission: Ambassador Stephen G. MCFARLAND
embassy: 7-01 Avenida Reforma, Zone 10, Guatemala City
mailing address: APO AA 34024
telephone: [502] 2326-4000
FAX: [502] 2326-4654
 
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three equal vertical bands of light blue (hoist side), white, and light blue, with the coat of arms centered in the white band; the coat of arms includes a green and red quetzal (the national bird) representing liberty and a scroll bearing the inscription LIBERTAD 15 DE SEPTIEMBRE DE 1821 (the original date of independence from Spain) all superimposed on a pair of crossed rifles signifying Guatemala's willingness to defend itself and a pair of crossed swords representing honor and framed by a laurel wreath symbolizing victory; the blue bands stand for the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and the sea and sky; the white band denotes peace and purity
 
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quetzal (bird)
 
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name: "Himno Nacional de Guatemala" (National Anthem of Guatemala)
lyrics/music: Jose Joaquin PALMA/Rafael Alvarez OVALLE
note: adopted 1897, modified lyrics adopted 1934; Cuban poet Jose Joaquin PALMA anonymously submitted lyrics to a public contest calling for a national anthem; his authorship was not discovered until 1911
 
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Economy

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Guatemala is the most populous country in Central America with a GDP per capita roughly one-half that of the average for Latin America and the Caribbean. The agricultural sector accounts for nearly 15% of GDP and half of the labor force; key agricultural exports include coffee, sugar, and bananas. The 1996 peace accords, which ended 36 years of civil war, removed a major obstacle to foreign investment, and since then Guatemala has pursued important reforms and macroeconomic stabilization. The Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) entered into force in July 2006 spurring increased investment and diversification of exports, with the largest increases in ethanol and non-traditional agricultural exports. While CAFTA-DR has helped improve the investment climate, concerns over security, the lack of skilled workers and poor infrastructure continue to hamper foreign direct investment. The distribution of income remains highly unequal with the richest 10% of the population accounting for more than 40% of Guatemala's overall consumption. More than half of the population is below the national poverty line and 15% lives in extreme poverty. Poverty among indigenous groups, which make up 38% of the population, averages 76% and extreme poverty rises to 28%. 43% of children under five are chronically malnourished, one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. President COLOM entered into office with the promise to increase education, healthcare, and rural development, and in April 2008 he inaugurated a conditional cash transfer program, modeled after programs in Brazil and Mexico, that provide financial incentives for poor families to keep their children in school and get regular health check-ups. Given Guatemala's large expatriate community in the United States, it is the top remittance recipient in Central America, with inflows serving as a primary source of foreign income equivalent to nearly two-thirds of exports or one-tenth of GDP. Economic growth fell in 2009 as export demand from US and other Central American markets fell and foreign investment slowed amid the global recession, but the economy recovered gradually in 2010 and will likely return to more normal growth rates by 2012. President COLOM, in his last year in office, will likely face opposition to economic reform, particularly over a long-delayed tax reform and an IMF-recommended reform to strengthen the banking sector.
 
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$70.15 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 82
$68.36 billion (2009 est.)
$68 billion (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
 
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$41.47 billion (2010 est.)
 
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2.6% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 134
0.5% (2009 est.)
3.3% (2008 est.)
 
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$5,200 (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 146
$5,100 (2009 est.)
$5,200 (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
 
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agriculture: 13.2%
industry: 23.8%
services: 63% (2010 est.)
 
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4.146 million (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 87
 
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agriculture: 50%
industry: 15%
services: 35% (1999 est.)
 
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3.2% (2005 est.)
country comparison to the world: 25
 
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56.2% (2004 est.)
 
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lowest 10%: 1.3%
highest 10%: 42.4% (2006)
 
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55.1 (2007)
country comparison to the world: 12
55.8 (1998)
 
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15.2% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 164
 
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revenues: $4.644 billion
expenditures: $6.005 billion (2010 est.)
 
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11.2% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 203
 
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-3.3% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 105
 
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29.7% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 92
28.2% of GDP (2009 est.)
 
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3.9% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 128
1.9% (2009 est.)
 
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6.5% (31 December 2010 est.)
NA% (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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13.34% (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 73
13.85% (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$6.806 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 81
$5.994 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$25.54 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 79
$22.39 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$15.94 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 88
$14.47 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$NA
 
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sugarcane, corn, bananas, coffee, beans, cardamom; cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens
 
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sugar, textiles and clothing, furniture, chemicals, petroleum, metals, rubber, tourism
 
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3.2% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 110
 
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8.395 billion kWh (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 95
 
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7.108 billion kWh (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 98
 
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76 million kWh (2008 est.)
 
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71 million kWh (2008 est.)
 
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13,070 bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 80
 
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71,000 bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 89
 
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15,300 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 91
 
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78,550 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 76
 
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83.07 million bbl (1 January 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 74
 
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0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 138
 
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0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 185
 
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0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 109
 
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0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 201
 
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2.96 billion cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
country comparison to the world: 94
 
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-$878.3 million (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 128
-$51.8 million (2009 est.)
 
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$8.566 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 94
$7.295 billion (2009 est.)
 
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coffee, sugar, petroleum, apparel, bananas, fruits and vegetables, cardamom
 
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US 36.8%, El Salvador 10.3%, Honduras 8.8%, Mexico 7.5% (2010)
 
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$12.86 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 83
$10.64 billion (2009 est.)
 
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fuels, machinery and transport equipment, construction materials, grain, fertilizers, electricity
 
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US 34.6%, Mexico 11.8%, China 7.9%, El Salvador 5.3% (2010)
 
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$5.646 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 84
$4.973 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$15.75 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 80
$13.8 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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quetzales (GTQ) per US dollar -
8.0798 (2010)
8.1616 (2009)
7.5895 (2008)
7.6833 (2007)
7.6026 (2006)
 
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Communications

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1.499 million (2010)
country comparison to the world: 65
 
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18.068 million (2010)
country comparison to the world: 46
 
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general assessment: fairly modern network centered in the city of Guatemala
domestic: state-owned telecommunications company privatized in the late 1990s opening the way for competition; fixed-line teledensity roughly 10 per 100 persons; fixed-line investments are being concentrated on improving rural connectivity; mobile-cellular teledensity exceeds 100 per 100 persons
international: country code - 502; landing point for both the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1) and the SAM-1 fiber optic submarine cable system that together provide connectivity to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and the US; connected to Central American Microwave System; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2008)
 
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4 privately-owned national terrestrial TV channels dominate TV broadcasting; multi-channel satellite and cable services are available; 1 government-owned radio station and hundreds of privately-owned radio stations (2007)
 
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.gt
 
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196,870 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 65
 
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2.279 million (2009)
country comparison to the world: 72
 
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Transportation

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372 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 21
 
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total: 13
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 4
under 914 m: 3 (2010)
 
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total: 359
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 84
under 914 m: 271 (2010)
 
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oil 480 km (2010)
 
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total: 332 km
country comparison to the world: 118
narrow gauge: 332 km 0.914-m gauge (2009)
 
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total: 14,095 km
country comparison to the world: 123
paved: 4,863 km (includes 75 km of expressways)
unpaved: 9,232 km (2001)
 
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990 km (260 km navigable year round; additional 730 km navigable during high-water season) (2010)
country comparison to the world: 66
 
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Puerto Quetzal, Santo Tomas de Castilla
 
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Military

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National Army of Guatemala (Ejercito Nacional de Guatemala, ENG), Guatemalan Navy (Marina Nacional, includes Marines), Guatemalan Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Guatemalteca, FAG) (2009)
 
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all male citizens between the ages of 18 and 50 are liable for military service; conscript service obligation varies from 12 to 24 months; women can serve as officers (2009)
 
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males age 16-49: 3,165,870
females age 16-49: 3,371,217 (2010 est.)
 
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males age 16-49: 2,590,843
females age 16-49: 2,926,544 (2010 est.)
 
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male: 171,092
female: 168,151 (2010 est.)
 
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0.4% of GDP (2009)
country comparison to the world: 164
 
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Transnational Issues


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annual ministerial meetings under the OAS-initiated Agreement on the Framework for Negotiations and Confidence Building Measures continue to address Guatemalan land and maritime claims in Belize and the Caribbean Sea; Guatemala persists in its territorial claim to half of Belize, but agrees to Line of Adjacency to keep Guatemalan squatters out of Belize's forested interior; Mexico must deal with thousands of impoverished Guatemalans and other Central Americans who cross the porous border looking for work in Mexico and the United States
 
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IDPs: undetermined (the UN does not estimate there are any IDPs, although some NGOs estimate over 200,000 IDPs as a result of over three decades of internal conflict that ended in 1996) (2007)
 
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major transit country for cocaine and heroin; in 2005, cultivated 100 hectares of opium poppy after reemerging as a potential source of opium in 2004; potential production of less than 1 metric ton of pure heroin; 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
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