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Country Reports

Guatemala Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

President Jimmy Morales, who took office in January 2016 on an anti-corruption platform, survived a third attempt in October 2018 to remove his immunity over corruption allegations as requested by Guatemala's public prosecutor's office. Periodic anti-government demonstrations are likely to continue to the general election in June 2019. Protests against mining and hydroelectric projects also are likely to continue, resulting in occasional community-led detentions of police and site employees. Associated civil unrest and court challenges have reduced government tax revenues and investor confidence; expected 3.1% GDP growth in 2018 largely will be supported by consumer spending, exports, and moderate imports.

Last update: October 19, 2018

Operational Outlook

Guatemala has been pursuing anti-corruption and tax evasion investigations with international support, which has affected all business sectors. Contracts awarded during the previous two administrations are at greatest risk of judicial investigation, contract alteration, and fines although current government contracts may also be investigated. Legal contract enforcement is complicated by a weak judiciary. Mining sector concessions are also at risk of suspension over environmental and community consultation compliance issues. Protests against resource extraction and development continue increase installation damage risks. The regulatory burden and business start-up framework have improved since 2014, when registration procedures were consolidated online.

Last update: September 4, 2018

Terrorism

High

There are no known terrorist groups operating in Guatemala. However, criminal groups, including transnational criminal organisations and street gangs conduct targeted assassinations and use grenades to target business infrastructure as extortion payment enforcement measures. Such actions are typically economically rather than politically motivated. Some former members of Guatemala's intelligence and security establishments accused of terrorist acts during the country's 36-year civil war have since instigated crime and corruption rings that reach the highest levels of government, but these are unlikely to significantly threaten government stability through terrorist activities.

Last update: September 4, 2018

War Risks

The threat of war in Guatemala remains low despite several incidents on the border with Belize. Hotspots include the Sarstoon River delta and Chiquibul National Park. The border issue is likely to be resolved diplomatically, most likely with a referral to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which has been addressing aspects of the territorial claims since 2008. Guatemala is also unlikely to see a return of internal conflict after a 36-year civil war was resolved in 1996. Most of the rebel groups involved in the conflict have disbanded or joined formal political processes.

Last update: September 4, 2018

Social Stability

High

Guatemala faces frequent social unrest with the power to disrupt transportation, frustrate commercial projects, and destabilise the government. Anti-corruption protests like those over 2016–18 can attract tens of thousands of protesters and previously have provoked government change in 2015. Labour strikes have significant power to influence policy developments like the cargo transport strike in October-November 2016 that generated losses worth USD456 million over a change to circulation schedules in Guatemala City. Community activism in opposition of resource development projects is also strong, particularly in Guatemala's north-east, sometimes resulting in localised property damages.

Last update: September 4, 2018

Health Risk

Very high

Vaccinations required to enter the country

Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required if traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission and over one year of age.

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Other Vaccinations

Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).

Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).

Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - chloroquine (sometimes marketed as Nivaquine).

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.

Last update: November 27, 2013

Natural Risks

Severe

Guatemala is highly vulnerable to natural disasters.

Powerful earthquakes regularly strike the country. In 1976, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6 on the Richter scale left 26,000 dead and devastated parts of the country. More recently, an 8.2-magnitude offshore earthquake struck the region in September 2017, resulting in damages in the southwestern department of San Marcos.

Offshore earthquakes can trigger tsunamis. If in a coastal area when an earthquake strikes, immediately look to see if a tsunami alert has been issued (either by the government or the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center). If in doubt, move inland following tsunami evacuation routes if designated and/or seek higher ground.

The country is also home to a number of active volcanoes, including the Fuego, Pacaya, and Santiaguito volcanoes. Eruptions have been known to result in flight disruptions, including at Guatemala City's La Aurora International Airport (GUA).

Guatemala is vulnerable to hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical storm remnants coming from both the Pacific and Caribbean. The Pacific hurricane season officially runs from May 15 to November 30, and the Atlantic hurricane season from June 1 to November 30. In June 2014, Tropical Storm Boris caused flooding and property damage, along with five deaths.

Torrential rains can lead to deadly flooding and landslides, particularly during the rainy season (May/June to November). Some 300 people were killed in a landslide that buried the village of El Cambray Dos (15 km [10 mi] east of the capital) in October 2015; another 12 people died in a landslide in San Pedro Soloma in June 2017. Furthermore, severe flooding in September/October 2017 left at least 26 people dead and hundreds of thousands of people affected; numerous roads and bridges were blocked by the floodwaters.

Forest fires are common during the dry season.

Last update: February 13, 2018

Transportation

Elevated

Driving conditions are dangerous due to poorly maintained roads, lack of lighting, and unsafe driving habits; fatal accidents are common. Additionally, accidents or general road rage have been known to lead to violent confrontations.

There are also significant risks on roads and highways due to the presence of criminal elements, notably in rural areas. Attacks and other criminal activities along highways in rural areas, notably in border regions (e.g. Petén department), due to the presence of arms, human, and drug traffickers. Criminals sometimes erect roadblocks to force cars to stop before their occupants are robbed or assaulted, including during the day.

Driving at night outside of cities should be avoided whenever possible and travel in groups of two or more vehicles is recommended. In cities, always drive with windows rolled up, doors locked, and valuable items stored out of sight; when in heavy traffic, leave room to maneuver between you and the car ahead.

Crime and accident rates are high on public transportation, notably municipal buses in the capital, as well as on intercity buses. Bus drivers and passengers may also be attacked by gang members in the context of extortion rackets and thus most buses should be avoided. Transmetro buses can be considered relatively safe.

Never hail a taxi off the street and only use official companies (e.g. Taxi Amarillo and Taxi Seguro), called in advance. Unlicensed taxi drivers have been known to rob or assault their passengers. 

Note that crime rates tend to be particularly high around airports.

Last update: February 13, 2018

Infrastructure

The Central American countries' electricity grids are connected by a single 1820-km (1130-mi) electricity line, making them particularly susceptible to power outages.  There were seven blackouts that have affected all of Central America between 2010 and 2017.

Last update: February 13, 2018

Practical Information

Climate

Guatemala has a hot and humid tropical climate. The dry season lasts from November until March (mild temperatures, low humidity) and the rainy season from June until October. Humidity during the rainy season, accompanied by high temperatures (38°C), is often stifling, particularly along the Pacific coast. Nights are generally cold in mountainous areas.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +502
Fire Dept. volontaires: 110
Fire Dept. municipaux: 123
Emergency Services: 911

Electricity

Voltage: 120 V ~ 60 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: December 9, 2013