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Politics of Guatemala

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Government

Guatemala's 1985 constitution provides for a separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The 1993 constitutional reforms included an increase in the number of Supreme Court justices from 9 to 13. The terms of office for president, vice president, and congressional representatives were reduced from 5 years to 4 years; for Supreme Court justices from 6 years to 5 years, and increased the terms of mayors and city councils from 21/2 to 4 years.

The president and vice president are directly elected through universal suffrage and limited to one term. A vice president can run for president after 4 years out of office. Supreme Court justices are elected by the Congress from a list submitted by the bar association, law school deans, a university rector, and appellate judges. The Supreme Court and local courts handle civil and criminal cases. There also is a Constitutional Court.

Guatemala has 22 administrative subdivisions (departments) administered by governors appointed by the president. Guatemala City and 330 other municipalities are governed by popularly elected mayors or councils.

Political conditions The 1999 presidential and legislative elections were considered by international observers to have been free and fair. Participation by women and indigenous voters was higher than in the recent past, although concerns remained regarding the accessibility of polling places in rural areas.

Portillo's landslide victory combined with an FRG majority in congress suggested possibilities for rapid legislative action. However, under the Guatemalan Constitution of 1985, passage of many kinds of legislation requires a two-thirds vote. Passage of such legislation is not possible, therefore, with FRG votes alone.

The political balance was disrupted in 2000 when allegations surfaced that the FRG had illegally altered legislation. Following an investigation, the Supreme Court stripped those involved, including President of Congress and FRG chief Rios Montt, of their legislative immunity to face charges in the case. At roughly the same time, the PAN opposition suffered an internal split and broke into factions; the same occurred in the ANN. As a result, reforms essential to peace implementation await legislative action.

New cases of human rights abuse continued to decline, although violent harassment of human rights workers presented a serious challenge to government authority. Common crime, aggravated by a legacy of violence and vigilante justice, presents another serious challenge. Impunity remains a major problem, primarily because democratic institutions, including those responsible for the administration of justice, have developed only a limited capacity to cope with this legacy. The government has stated it will require until 2002 to meet the target of increasing its tax burden (at about 10% of GDP, currently the lowest in the region) to 12% of GDP.

Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Guatemala
conventional short form: Guatemala
local long form: Republica de Guatemala
local short form: Guatemala

Data code: GT

Government type: constitutional democratic republic

Capital: Guatemala

Administrative divisions: 22 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento); Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz[?], Chimaltenango, Chiquimula[?], El Progreso, Escuintla[?], Guatemala, Huehuetenango[?], Izabal, Jalapa, Jutiapa[?], Peten, Quetzaltenango, Quiche, Retalhuleu[?], Sacatepequez, San Marcos, Santa Rosa, Solola[?], Suchitepequez[?], Totonicapan[?], Zacapa[?]

Independence:

15 September 1821 (from Spain)

National holiday: Independence Day, 15 September (1821)

Constitution: 31 May, 1985, effective 14 January 1986
note: suspended 25 May 1993 by former President SERRANO; reinstated 5 June 1993 following ouster of president; amended November 1993

Legal system: civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal (active duty members of the armed forces may not vote)

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Alfonso Antonio Portillo Cabreras[?] (since 14 January 2000); Vice President Juan Francisco Reyes Lopez (since 14 January 2000); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Alfonso Antonio Portillo Cabreras (since 14 January 2000); Vice President Juan Francisco REYES Lopez (since 14 January 2000); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Council of Ministers named by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a four-year term; election last held 7 November 1999; runoff held 26 December 1999 (next to be held NA November 2003)
election results: Alfonso Antonio Portillo Cabreras elected president; percent of vote - Alfonso Antonio PORTILLO Cabreras (FRG) 68%, Oscar Berger Perdomo(PAN) 32%

Legislative branch: unicameral Congress of the Republic or Congreso de la Republica (113 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held on 7 November 1999 (next to be held in November 2003)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - FRG 63, PAN 37, ANN 9, DCG 2, UD/LOV 1, PLP 1
note: for the 7 November 1999 election, the number of congressional seats was increased from 80 to 113

Judicial branch: Supreme Court of Justice or Corte Suprema de Justicia; additionally the Court of Constitutionality is presided over by the president of the Supreme Court, judges are elected for a five-year term by Congress

Political parties and leaders: Christian Democratic Party or DCG [Vinicio Cerezo Arevalo]; Democratic Union or UD [Jose Chea Urruela]; Green Party or LOV [leader NA]; Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union or URNG [Jorge Soto]; Guatemalan Republican Front or FRG [Efrain Rios Montt]; National Advancement Party or PAN [Hector Cifuentes]; New Guatemalan Democratic Front or FDNG [Rafael Arriaga Martinez]; New Nation Alliance or ANN [leader NA]; Progressive Liberator Party or PLP [leader NA]

Political pressure groups and leaders: Agrarian Owners Group or UNAGRO; Alliance Against Impunity or AAI; Committee for Campesino Unity or CUC; Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial, and Financial Associations or CACIF; Mutual Support Group or GAM

International organization participation: BCIE, CACM, CCC, ECLAC, FAO, G-24, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (correspondent), ITU, LAES, LAIA (observer), NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNU, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant)
chancery: 2220 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 745-4952
FAX: [1] (202) 745-1908
consulate(s) general: Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Prudence Bushnell
embassy: 7-01 Avenida de la Reforma, Zone 10, Guatemala City
mailing address: APO AA 34024
telephone: [502] (2) 31-15-41
FAX: [502] (2) 33-48-77

Flag description: three equal vertical bands of light blue (hoist side), white, and light blue with the coat of arms centered in the white band; the coat of arms includes a green and red quetzal (the national bird) and a scroll bearing the inscription LIBERTAD 15 DE SEPTIEMBRE DE 1821 (the original date of independence from Spain) all superimposed on a pair of crossed rifles and a pair of crossed swords and framed by a wreath

See also : Guatemala



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