Guatemala in Central America has magnificent
scenery and a vibrant indigenous culture with ancient
roots. Despite this, tourism is limited, due to the
country's violent history. The civil war of 1960-96
demanded over 200,000 lives. Most of the victims were
poor Mayan Indians who fell victim to the military's
overwhelm. After the war, extensive violent crime and
corruption have spread. Guatemala is a middle-income
country, but resources are extremely widespread and many
live in deep poverty.
Brief profiles of Guatemala, including geography, history, politics, economics as well as common acronyms about this country.
Geography and climate
Guatemala is located in northwest Central
America and is on the surface as a quarter of Sweden.
The country has a short coastal section towards the
Caribbean in the east and a longer coast towards the
Pacific in the south.
Most of Guatemala is mountainous. Five miles inside
the south coast, the Sierra Madre mountain range rises.
Here is Central America's highest mountain, the volcano
Tajumulco (4,220 meters above sea level). Further north,
the Los Cuchumatanes mountain range runs.
The capital of Guatemala City is located in the
highlands between the two mountain systems and here the
majority of the population lives. At the far south is a
fertile coastal plain. To the east of the highlands, the
terrain slopes down to marshlands on the Caribbean
coast. The northernmost third of Guatemala consists of
the inaccessible and flat El Petén limestone plateau
with grasslands, swamps and rainforests.
Previously, most of Guatemala was forestry, but
forests now cover only about a third of the area.
Wildlife is rich. In cloud forests in central parts of
the country there is the colorful national bird quetzal,
which gave its name to the country's currency.
The region is affected by earthquakes. The former
capital of Antigua Guatemala was abandoned after a
devastating earthquake in the 18th century. In 1976,
Guatemala City, along with much of the rest of the
country, was hit by an earthquake that claimed nearly
The climate differs between different parts of the
country. On the coasts and in El Petén in the north, the
climate is tropical. In the highlands of central
Guatemala it is slightly cooler, averaging 20 degrees.
It is colder in the northern mountains where a large
part of the indigenous people live. There can be minus
degrees at night.
In most of the country it rains mainly between May
and November, but the Caribbean coast to the east
receives rainfall year-round. Occasionally, hurricanes
or heavy storms cause severe flooding and landslides
FACTS - GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
109 000 km2 (2018)
Swedish –7 hours
Adjacent country (s)
Mexico, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras
Capital with number of inhabitants
Guatemala City / Ciudad de Guatemala 994,000 (without
suburbs, official estimate 2013)
Other major cities
Villa Nueva 540,000, Mixco 490,000, Cobán 240,000
(official estimate 2013)
Tajumulco (4,220 m asl)
Average Precipitation / month
Guatemala City 3 mm (Jan), 274 mm (June)
Average / day
Guatemala City 17 °C (Jan), 21 °C (July)
Prison chief arrested for corruption
The head of the country's prisons Edgar Camargo is
arrested, suspected of involvement in widespread
corruption and blackmail. According to prosecutors,
Camargo has received bribes from a known criminal who is
serving a lengthy prison sentence for the 1998 murder of
Bishop Gerardi (see Modern History).
Defense chief dead in helicopter crash
Defense Chief General Rudy Ortiz and four other
soldiers are killed when a helicopter crashes in the
province of Huehuetenango, near the Mexico border. The
cause of the crash is unknown.
Massage victims are buried again
The remains of 31 Mayan Indians who were killed in a
massacre in the village of Xecax in 1982 are again
buried in a ceremony, in yet another reminder of the
country's dark local history. Only eight of the victims
have been identified since the remains were excavated
four years ago.
Summit on refugee wave to the USA
President Pérez Molina and his colleagues from El
Salvador and Honduras meet US President Barack Obama in
the White House and discuss what has sailed up as a
crisis in the United States, with at least 57,000
unaccompanied refugee children arriving since October
2013, mainly from the three countries. Obama says those
involved have a "shared responsibility" to change the
conditions that make the refugees leave. This applies to
poverty, violence and difficult living conditions in the
home countries, but also to some information that most
refugees may not stay in the United States, even if they
Former guerrilla leader convicted of murder
Former guerrilla leader Fermín Felipe Solano is
sentenced to 90 years in prison for the murder of 22
faithful peasants in 1988. This is the first time a
former guerrilla leader has been convicted of a crime
during the civil war. Solano was the leader of a now
disbanded guerrilla group, Orpa.
Former chief of state police is sentenced to life
Former Chief of Police Erwin Sperisen is sentenced to
life imprisonment in Switzerland for the murder of seven
prisoners in Guatemala in 2006. The murders were
committed by security forces in connection with a prison
riot. Sperisen has both Swiss and Guatemalan citizenship
and cannot be extradited from Switzerland, but is
well-judged there. The verdict is seen as an important
step in the UN-led efforts to rectify impunity.
Ex-president gets jail in US
Former President Alfonso Portillo is sentenced to
five years and ten months in prison by a New York court
(see May 2013), for money laundering.
During the trial, Portillo acknowledged that he received
$ 2.5 million in bribes from Taiwan for failing to break
diplomatic relations with Taiwan during his presidency
(2000-2004). Since he has been detained for a long time,
Portillo only needs to sit for another 18 months. He has
also been ordered to pay $ 2.5 million in fines - the
same amount that he admitted to receiving bribes. A
similar target is being pursued against El Salvador's
President Francisco Flores (see El Salvador: Calendar).