Guatemala

Guatemala is a country in Central America that is rich with fertile soils, vast mountains that contain metals, abundant streams, fauna and flora of the humid tropics. However, it is also an extremely poor and violent country. More than 54% of the people live in poverty or extreme poverty. The country ranks 133rd in the world in terms of human development and more than half of the children suffer from chronic malnutrition as infants.1 The Maya natives, who make up nearly two-thirds of the population,2 have been severely disadvantaged by mining projects in the country, and by extensive racism since Spanish colonization more than five centuries ago.

People in Guatemala face major internal economic disparity because less than 2% of the population owns more than 70% of the land. With affluence concentrated in the hands of the oligarchy, Guatemala ranks 11th in the world among countries where economic inequality is the most pronounced.3.

The years between 1944 and 1954 were marked by a promising democratic awakening. The progressive governments of the time proposed addressing the major causes of economic disparity that was oppressing the Guatemalan population. However, because those plans threatened certain powerful economic interests, the years of hope were brutally interrupted by a coup promoted by Guatemalan oligarchic law and the United States via the CIA.4

The decades that followed set the stage for a succession of authoritative, military and repressive regimes Armed conflict resulted in the dealths of more than 200,000 people. Another 40,000 people disappeared and nearly 1 million people were displaced. The Commission d’Éclaircissement Historique showed that during the bloodiest years of the conflict, the Guatemalan government and army planned genocide against their own people.5 In 1996, the signing of the peace agreements put an end to the conflict, without, however, solving the socioeconomic problems at its root. Currently, injustice in all its forms reigns in Guatemala. Economic exploitation and structural racism continue, and human rights violations are extremely common.


  1. Données de 2013 : The World Factbook of Central Intelligence Agency, en ligne : https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/ et le Programme des Nations Unies pour le développement, classement par pays des Indicateurs de développement humain, en ligne : http://hdr.undp.org/fr/statistiques/ 

  2. La proportion varie beaucoup d’une source à l’autre. Selon le International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, le Guatemala est composé de 60% d’autochtones : site consulté au 20 novembre 2013 : http://www.iwgia.org/esp 

  3. Rapport de l’UNICEF politique, sociale et économique, L’inégalité mondiale, la répartition des revenus dans 141 pays, août 2012, à la page 50, et Socioeconomic database for latin america and the carribean, 2013, en ligne : http://sedlac.econo.unlp.edu.ar/eng/index.php 

  4. National security archives, George Washington University http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB4/index.html 

  5. Commission d’Éclaircissement Historique, rapport Memoria del Silencio, conclusions et recommandations, 1999