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Country information: Guatemala



108 400 square kilometres


13,28 million (July 2009)

Capital city

Guatemala City (1 million inhabitants 2006)

Official languages

Spanish, as well as 21 Mayan languages

(first language for 40 to 60 % of the population)

GDP per capita (PPP)

5 200 US $ (2008)

Population growth

2.1 per cent (2009)

Life expectancy

70,3 years (men: 68,5 years, women: 72,2 years) (2009)

Infant mortality

27,8 per 1 000 live births (2009)

Rate of illiteracy

29,4 per cent (2003)




According to UNWTO in the year 2004 approximately 1,2 million guests came into the country and paid 624 million Euro. Due to the unstable situation, however, these numbers have stagnated. The main draw for tourists are the numerous remnants of Mayan culture.


Commercial sexual exploitation of children in tourism

The growth in tourism, together with other factors, has led to the expansion of the leisure infrastructure In particular, street children in the towns and cities are threatened by abduction and subsequent commercial sexual exploitation. In their desperation some fall for promises of well-paid jobs. Lawyers and judges also exploit the desperate economic situation of mothers, and promote the trade of small children for adoption in industrialised countries. Children of women in the brothels are a prime target. Between 1 500 and 2 000 babies are sold abroad every year. As of yet, there are no adequate laws governing international adoptions.


Guatemala on 6 June 1990 ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and has undertaken to protect children against all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.


HIV /Aids

According to estimates from UNAIDS and the World Health Organization, at the end of 2007 approxemately 59.000 people in Guatemala were infected with HIV, including 52.000 women. How many children were infected, could not be estimated. In the same year 3.900 Guatemalans died following infection with HIV.


Local Contacts


Terre des hommes - Coordinación Guatemala

Mr. Carlos Giovanni Sánchez Alfaro

Lote 6 Sector H Colonia La Hojarascas kmt.20

Carretera a San Lucas

Guatemala City


Phone: +502 24844043



Save the Children Sweden - Guatemala Office

9 Avenida 32-01

Zona 11

Colonia Las Charcas

Guatemala City, Guatemala

Phone: +502 334 7263

Fax: +502 331 0411



Plan International - Guatemala

Avenida Reforma 6-64

Zone 9

Edificio Plaza Corportiva

60 Nivel Torre I,Guatemala

Phone: +502 339 1466

Fax: +502 339 1453



CASA Alianza Guatemala

13 Av. 0-37 Zone 2 Mixco. Guatemala.

PBX: 502-24339600.

Fax: +502-24339600 Ext. 141




ECPAT Guatemala

11 Avenida 10-67, Zona 2, Ciudad Nueva

Guatemala City, Guatemala

Phone: +502 2254 86 98

Fax: +502 2254 79 16






State and society

Guatemala, the most populous country in Central America, is a presidential republic. Head of state and of government is the State President. The legislature has the form of a Congress.

Guatemala is in a state of social change. In 1991, the government reached an agreement with the guerrilla organisation, URNG, about the development of a functioning, participatory democracy, with an aim to ending the civil war that had cost more than 100 000 lives since 1961. This was followed by a further peace agreement with the guerrillas in 1996. This process of reconciliation is continuing, but there is little prospect in the coming years of complete demilitarisation and the rule by law in a multi-ethnic society.

More than three decades of human rights violations have left their mark on the Guatemalans. The traumatic experiences of this period have led to a brutalisation of many parts of society, forming a vicious circle with the problems of poverty and hopelessness. Two-thirds of the population live below the poverty line. Levels of general crime are very high. Daily life is interrupted by armed robberies, including attacks on tourists, and rape is common. In the past couple of years, levels of unemployment have risen, and the consequences of the tropical storm "Mitch" have made the situation even worse since 1998. Social tensions have also increased.


The population consists of about 45 per cent Indios, 45 per cent metis (Ladinos), five per cent whites and 2 per cent blacks. More than 60 per cent of the population live in the southern highlands. Almost two-thirds of the people are Roman Catholic, almost one-third Protestant. A small number still practice the Maya religions.


Education also suffers from the poverty of the population. Only 15 out of 100 rural children complete basic schooling. Instead of learning to read and write they have to help their parents with the work on the land. The rate of illiteracy in Guatemala is 44 per cent - the highest rate in all of Central and South America.



More than half the population lives from farming, although land ownership is often disputed. Two-thirds of the land is owned by two per cent of land owners. In addition to meeting its own needs, Guatemala exports coffee, cotton, bananas, and sugar cane. It has a food industry, and also beverage and textile industries. Die Prices for Guatemala’s export products have collapsed in the last few years, causing the economy to worsen.