Defense Force, Trade,
Foreign Relations, Guatemala - U.S. Relations, Traffic Saftey & Road Conditions, Embassy Location, Political Conditions, and Civil Aviation Oversight...
total: 1,019 km (102 km privately owned)
narrow gauge: 1,019 km 0.914-m gauge (single track)
Inland waterways: 260 km navigable year round; additional 730 km navigable during high-water season
Pipelines: crude oil 275 km
Ports: Champerico, Puerto Barrios, Puerto Quetzal, San Jose, Santo Tomas de Castilla
Merchant marine: none
international: connection into Central American Microwave System; 1 INTELSAT (Atlantic Ocean) earth station
The Guatemalan army number about 43,000 personnel, including subordinate air force (700) and navy (1,300) elements. The army is operationally organized into 19 military zones and three strategic brigades. The air force operates three air bases; the navy has two port bases. The 1994 defense budget is estimated at $123 million--about 1% of GDP.
The armed forces are equipped with armaments and materiel from the United States, Israel, Yugoslavia, Taiwan, Argentina, Spain, and France. Guatemala is a signatory to the Rio Pact and is a member of the Central American Defense Council (CONDECA).
Guatemala maintains an embassy in the United States at 2220 R Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-745-4952), and consulates in New York, Miami, Chicago, Houston, and Los Angeles, as well as an honorary consul in New Orleans.
The United States is Guatemala's largest trading partner, providing 45% of the country's imports and receiving 37% of its exports. U.S. official assistance to Guatemala since 1986 totals about $900 million, but the level of aid now is markedly reduced--for FY 1994, $55 million in bilateral economic development assistance--as U.S. aid levels decline worldwide.
Guatemala's major diplomatic interests are regional security issues and, increasingly, regional development and economic integration issues. Guatemala has been an active participant in the Contadora and Esquipulas processes. It hosted the June 1990 Central American Economic Summit, which was attended by the Presidents of El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and--for the first time--Panama. It also originated the idea for, and is the seat of, the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN).
Guatemala long has laid claim to Belize; the territorial dispute caused problems with the United Kingdom and later with Belize, following its 1981 independence from the U.K. Relations have since improved. In 1986, Guatemala and the U.K. re-established commercial and consular relations; in 1987, they re-established full diplomatic relations. In December 1989, Guatemala sponsored Belize for permanent observer status in the Organization of American States (OAS); Guatemalan President Cerezo and Belizean Prime Minister Price met twice in 1990 to discuss bilateral relations. In September 1991, Guatemala recognized Belize's independence and established diplomatic ties, while acknowledging that the boundaries remained in dispute.
In April 1993, then-Foreign Minister Menendez Park met with his Belizean counterpart in Miami. Among the decisions made was that both states would forswear the use of force to settle any problems over the issue. The De Leon government has made clear that Guatemala continues its recognition of Belize while at the same time seeking discussions to resolve the territorial dispute. In early 1994, the Guatemalan Government forwarded a letter to the UN reserving its rights on the border issue. It also has created an internal advisory council whose mandate is to suggest a policy leading to an end to the dispute with Belize.
Relations between the United States and Guatemala traditionally have been good. U.S. policy in Guatemala includes:
-- Supporting the institutionalization of democracy; -- Encouraging Guatemalan respect for human rights and the rule of law; -- Supporting broad-based economic growth and sustainable development; -- Cooperating with the Guatemalan Government to combat narcotics trafficking; -- Supporting Central American integration and regional peace efforts, including the dialogue process with the Guatemalan insurgency; -- Maintaining mutually beneficial trade relations; and -- Supporting a solution to the Belize dispute acceptable to the parties involved.
U.S. military assistance to Guatemala was suspended in 1990 following the murder of American citizen Michael Devine by members of the Guatemalan armed forces. The soldiers responsible for Devine's murder were tried, convicted, and imprisoned, but the officer who led the killers escaped from detention in May 1993. The U.S. views his capture and imprisonment as fundamental to improved relations with the Guatemalan military.
Intercity travel after sunset anywhere in Guatemala is extremely dangerous. Travelers in private vehicles have been robbed, abducted, and murdered. There have also been incidents during daylight hours. Large capacity rented vehicles and travel agency vans are sometimes targeted by highway bandits. If confronted by armed bandits, those who accede to all requests without arguing are usually not physically harmed. Bandits often shoot at travelers who try to outrun roadblocks.
When driving to the Lake Atitlan area, the safest route is the Pan-American highway (CA-1) through Solola. Travel to the lake by any other route is dangerous. Boat travel on Lake Atitlan is dangerous in the late afternoon because of frequent bad weather conditions.
When entering Guatemala by car from Mexico, most travelers use border crossings at Tecun Uman (Highway CA-2) or La Mesilla (Highway CA-1) from Mexico, at Las Chinamas/Valle Nuevo from El Salvador and at El Florido or Agua Caliente from Honduras. Travelers need plenty of time to complete border crossing formalities, which can be lengthy, in order to arrive at a major town before dark.
U.S. citizens may register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City to obtain updated information on travel and security within Guatemala. The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala is located at Avenida La Reforma 7-01 in Zone 10, Guatemala City, telephone (502) 331-1541. Consular Section hours for American Citizen Services are 8:00 A.M.-12:00 noon and 1:00-3:00 P.M. Monday - Friday (except weekends and U.S. and Guatemalan holidays).
Since the early 1960s, the Guatemalan military has been engaged in counter-insurgency operations against Marxist-Leninist guerrillas. When the army was divested of its governing role as a result of the 1985 democratic elections, it rededicated itself to the professionalization of its forces and to combat against the insurgents. Although the army has reduced the insurgency to the point that it does not threaten national stability, guerrillas continue to mount attacks on military installations and economic infrastructure and to extort "war taxes" from civilians. Since much of Guatemala's violence stems from its long- running internal armed conflict, a resolution of the conflict would greatly contribute to an improvement in Guatemala's human rights and economic situation.
President De Leon, a former Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman, has strongly and publicly expressed his refusal to tolerate human rights abuses. He eliminated the presidential security force (Archivos), implicated in many human rights violations. The number of politically motivated deaths and kidnapings was substantially lower in mid-1994 than in the early 1980s, but important human rights problems remain, including the use of force and abuses by political extremists of the left and the right and by some individual and former members of the security forces.
In many instances, the Guatemalan Government still does not adequately follow through on investigating and prosecuting violations, especially those committed by security forces and persons associated with or protected by the army, such as the civil defense patrols and military commissioners. These problems are aggravated by a legacy of violence, vigilante justice, and common crime. The judiciary and democratic institutions have developed only a limited capacity to cope with this legacy.
The De Leon government has shown great interest in reaching a peace accord. In January 1994, the umbrella URNG guerrilla organization and the Guatemalan Government resumed talks stalled during previous administrations. The UN served as moderator, and a formal "Friends of the Peace Process" group--composed of Colombia, Mexico, Norway, Spain, Venezuela, and the U.S.--also was formed.
In late March 1994, the government and guerrillas took a major step forward in the peace process when they signed a human rights accord that called for the immediate establishment of a UN Human Rights Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGA), which began to operate in November 1994. At the same time, a calendar was agreed upon for the Guatemalan Government and URNG to address major outstanding issues. The calendar anticipated an end to the war in December 1994. Major accords on "uprooted" people and to establish a Historical Clarification Commission to look into human rights abuses related to the war were signed in June 1994. As of late November 1994, the two sides were discussing the issue of indigenous rights, but a final, overall peace agreement had not been reached.
As a result of an assessment conducted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in April 1993, the FAA has found the government of Guatemala's civil aviation authority not to be in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Guatemala's air carrier operations. While consultations to correct the deficiencies are ongoing, Guatemala's air carriers are permitted to conduct limited operations to the U.S. subject to heightened FAA surveillance. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation at (800) 322-7873.