Politics of Guatemala
Politics of Guatemala takes place in a framework of a presidential
Presidential system
A presidential system is a system of government where an executive branch exists and presides separately from the legislature, to which it is not responsible and which cannot, in normal circumstances, dismiss it....

 representative democratic
Representative democracy
Representative democracy is a form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, as opposed to autocracy and direct democracy...

A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

, whereby the President of Guatemala
President of Guatemala
The title of President of Guatemala has been the usual title of the leader of Guatemala since 1839, when that title was assumed by Mariano Rivera Paz...

 is both head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 and head of government
Head of government
Head of government is the chief officer of the executive branch of a government, often presiding over a cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is often styled prime minister, chief minister, premier, etc...

, and of a multi-party system
Multi-party system
A multi-party system is a system in which multiple political parties have the capacity to gain control of government separately or in coalition, e.g.The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in the United Kingdom formed in 2010. The effective number of parties in a multi-party system is normally...

. Executive power
Executive Power
Executive Power is Vince Flynn's fifth novel, and the fourth to feature Mitch Rapp, an American agent that works for the CIA as an operative for a covert counter terrorism unit called the "Orion Team."-Plot summary:...

 is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

 and the Congress of the Republic. The judiciary
The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes...

 is independent of the executive and the legislature.

Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

 1985 Constitution
Constitution of Guatemala
The Constitution of Guatemala is the supreme law of the Republic of Guatemala. It sets the bases for the organization of Guatemalan government and it outlines the three main branches of Guatemalan government: executive branch, legislative branch, and judicial branch.External References=*...

 http://es.wikisource.org/wiki/Constituci%C3%B3n_de_Guatemala 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
President of Guatemala
The title of President of Guatemala has been the usual title of the leader of Guatemala since 1839, when that title was assumed by Mariano Rivera Paz...

, vice president
Vice President of Guatemala
Vice President of Guatemala is a political position in Guatemala which is since 1966 elected concurrently with the position of President of Guatemala. Latest Vice President who took over as President was Gustavo Espina in 1993....

, and congressional deputies
Congress of Guatemala
The Congress of the Republic is the unicameral legislature of the Republic of Guatemala.It comprises 158 deputies, who are elected by direct universal suffrage to serve four-year terms . Twenty-nine of these are elected from nationwide lists, with the rest on a district list basis...

 were reduced from five years to four years; for Supreme Court justices from six years to five years, and increased the terms of mayors and city councils from 30 months to four years.

Executive branch

The president and vice president are directly elected through universal suffrage
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

 and limited to one term. A vice president can run for president after four years out of office.

President of Guatemala
The title of President of Guatemala has been the usual title of the leader of Guatemala since 1839, when that title was assumed by Mariano Rivera Paz...

|Álvaro Colom
Álvaro Colom
Álvaro Colom Caballeros is the President of Guatemala for the 2008–2012 term and leader of the social-democratic National Unity of Hope .-Early years:...

|National Unity of Hope
National Unity of Hope
The National Unity of Hope is a political party in Guatemala. It was founded in 2002 and defines itself as a social-democratic and social-Christian party....

|14 January 2008
President of Guatemala
The title of President of Guatemala has been the usual title of the leader of Guatemala since 1839, when that title was assumed by Mariano Rivera Paz...

|Otto Pérez Molina
|Patriotic Party
Patriotic Party (Guatemala)
The Patriotic Party is a right wing political party in Guatemala.It was founded on 24 February 2001 by retired Army General Otto Pérez Molina.-2003 election:...

|14 January 2012

Legislative branch

The Congress of the Republic
Congress of Guatemala
The Congress of the Republic is the unicameral legislature of the Republic of Guatemala.It comprises 158 deputies, who are elected by direct universal suffrage to serve four-year terms . Twenty-nine of these are elected from nationwide lists, with the rest on a district list basis...

 (Congreso de la República) has 158 members, elected for a four-year term, partially in departmental constituencies and partially by nationwide proportional representation
Proportional representation
Proportional representation is a concept in voting systems used to elect an assembly or council. PR means that the number of seats won by a party or group of candidates is proportionate to the number of votes received. For example, under a PR voting system if 30% of voters support a particular...


Political parties and elections

Political parties in Guatemala are generally numerous and unstable. No party has won the presidency more than once and in every election period the majority of the parties are small and newly-formed. Even the longer-lived parties, such as the Christian Democrats
Guatemalan Christian Democracy
The Guatemalan Christian Democracy , founded 24 August 1955, was a political party in Guatemala. It was a moderate reformist party, although also anti-Communist. It first won congressional seats in [Guatemalan parliamentary election, 1955|1955]]. In 1957, it contested presidential elections but...

 (DCG) or the URNG
Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity
The Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity is a Guatemalan political party that started as a guerrilla movement but laid down its arms in 1996 and became a legal political party in 1998 after the peace process after the Guatemalan Civil War.-Formation:Since the CIA-backed...

, tend to last less than a decade as significant forces in Guatemalan politics.

Judicial branch

The Constitutional Court (Corte de Constitucionalidad) is Guatemala's constitutional court and only interprets the law in matters that affect the country's constitution. It is composed of five judges, elected for concurrent five-year terms each with a supplent, each serving one year as president of the Court: one is elected by Congress, one elected by the Supreme Court of Justice, one is appointed by the President, one is elected by Superior Council of the Universidad San Carlos de Guatemala, and one by the Bar Association (Colegio de Abogados);

The Supreme Court of Justice (Corte Suprema de Justicia) is Guatemala's highest court and comprises thirteen members, who serve concurrent five-year terms and elect a president of the Court each year from among their number. The president of the Supreme Court of Justice also supervises trial judges around the country, who are named to five-year terms). The Supreme Court has an Appeal Court formed by 43 members. When one of the Supreme Court is absent or cannot participates in a case, one of the Appeal Court takes its place.

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.

Alfonso Portillo's landslide victory combined with a Guatemalan Republican Front
Guatemalan Republican Front
The Guatemalan Republican Front is a right-wing political party in Guatemala.It was created in 1989 by former president and dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, and formally registered in 1990...

 (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 Ríos Montt
Efraín Ríos Montt
José Efraín Ríos Montt is a former de facto President of Guatemala, dictator, army general, and former president of Congress. In the 2003 presidential elections, he unsuccessfully ran as the candidate of the ruling Guatemalan Republican Front .Huehuetenango-born Ríos Montt remains one of the most...

, 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
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 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
Gross domestic product
Gross domestic product refers to the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period. GDP per capita is often considered an indicator of a country's standard of living....

, currently the lowest in the region) to 12% of GDP.

During the Presidential race the FRG organized what will later be known as Black Thursday (Jueves negro
Jueves negro
Jueves negro refers to a violent series of political demonstrations that created havoc in Guatemala City on 24 July and 25 July 2003....

). The FRG organized its partisans from the country and brought them to the city. The FRG gave them transport, food, a shelter for the night, and meter long sticks. With these sticks the participants ran through the streets wreaking havoc on the public infrastructure. During this day a journalist of Prensa Libre
Prensa Libre
Prensa Libre is a Guatemalan newspaper published in Guatemala City by Prensa Libre, S.A. and distributed nationwide. It was formerly the most widely circulated newspaper in the country and as of 2007 it has the second-widest circulation. It is considered a local newspaper of record. It was founded...

 (a leading newspaper) was killed. The media (which have a tradition of being independent and free) took it very personally and for the next month every headline was about these events, and the participation of the ruling party in this day of terror. The FRG was protesting the ruling of the TSE (supreme electoral tribunal) to ban the FRG candidate Efrain Rios Mont from the race. The TSE argued that as a formal putschist, he was banned by the constitution from ever becoming president. The FRG argued that since the events in which the former general participated predate the constitution, he was eligible for presidential office. Common sense argued that if such a clause was not retroactive by nature it would have no point.

Since 2004 Oscar Berger
Oscar Berger
Oscar Berger may refer to:*Óscar Berger , President of Guatemala*Oscar Berger , caricaturist and cartoonist born in Czechoslovakia*Oscar Berger-Levrault, French inventor...

 of the GANA (a coalition of political parties rather than a single one) won the elections, it is important to note that this was the first government in the history of democratic Guatemala that did not have an overwhelming majority in congress. After he took office in January 2004 it was made public that the FRG had wildly ransacked the government going to the extremes of stealing computer equipment and objects of historic importance. Alfonso Portillo fled to Mexico with an impressive amount of money stolen from military funds, the national hospital, and the revenue service. Guatemala made a formal request for the deportation of Portillo to face charges of embezzlement, however Mexico has never revoked diplomatic asylum once it is granted to a person.

It is interesting to note that though the constitution says nothing about it, the vice president runs the government like a prime minister while the president deals with foreign affairs, this can be seen regularly as the VP stands in for the president in many events that are traditionally presided by the President of the Republic.

Criminality has reached staggering proportions: about 200 murders per month and it is starting to affect the economy as many companies prefer to leave the country than face the growing corruption and insecurity. One significant problem is the ongoing gang warfare between the M18 (Mara Dieciocho
18th Street gang
18th Street gang is considered to be the largest transnational criminal gang in Los Angeles, California. It is estimated that there are thousands of members in Los Angeles County alone...

) and the MS (Mara Salvatrucha
Mara Salvatrucha
Mara Salvatrucha is a transnational criminal gang that originated in Los Angeles and has spread to other parts of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Central America. The majority of the gang is ethnically composed of Central Americans and active in urban and suburban areas...

). These are two rival street gangs comprising loosely linked international franchise organizations, who wield a power somewhat like that of the US mafia of the 1930s and are for the moment above and beyond the grasp of the law. They hold territory under their control and extort “taxes” (la renta) from it. However, they are not yet involved in high-level organized trafficking (that industry is of a different class of organized crime in Guatemala, with Mexican smugglers and top-ranking Guatemalan police officials regularly making headlines being caught with hundreds of kilograms of cocaine). Interestingly, the mara phenomenon originated in the United States in the 1980s, specifically in Los Angeles, among refugees fleeing civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala. Later, many members of the maras were deported from the United States to their countries of origin, and during the 1990s this has helped fuel the spread of the two gangs across the United States, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and even Italy and Spain. There is a zone of Guatemala City, “El Gallito” which is recognized as being outside of Government control, it belongs to the drug lords that inhabit it. Barrio "El Gallito" is located in Zone 3, 2 miles away from the National Palace where the Government's offices are located.

Drug trafficking has reached staggering proportions in Guatemala, with corruption extending to top positions of many branches of government. Various narco-mafias vie for control of the remote northern jungle regions of Petén, where drugs, arms, and people all cross the border into Mexico, mostly bound for the United States. Drug trafficking is undoubtedly the greatest threat to political freedom in Guatemala today.

The country is plagued by lynchings which severely blemish the country's humans rights record as a violation of due process of law.

The Berger administration has been hailed in some circles for its work in devolution. Guatemala has always been a strongly centralized state and the administration sought to take halt the growing pre-eminence of the Capital. For example the administration has engaged in mobile cabinets where the President and all his ministers will go into the country and change the seat of power every so often, to be “closer to the people”.

The administration is facing growing financial difficulties, potentially in part due to 60% of the population being considered “poor” and therefore ineligible for taxation. The SAT (superintendence of tributary administration), the revenue service, is therefore obligated to tax the middle class which is starting to suffer under the burden. The SAT has become stringent in its application of the law seeking the full penalties of incarceration for tax evasion.

In September 2006 the PNC (civil national police), in a joint action with the national military took by storm the Pavon detention center, a prison with 1,500 inmates which until that date hadn't been requisitioned for 10 years and which was a hub of criminal activity. Some inmates, the guard of the chief of the mafiosi what ran the prison and the leader himself resisted the onslaught of forces of law with AK-47
The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle, first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is officially known as Avtomat Kalashnikova . It is also known as a Kalashnikov, an "AK", or in Russian slang, Kalash.Design work on the AK-47 began in the last year...

 and handguns, they were massacred. Around 3,000 infantry and 4 tanks participated in the action. This was a milestone of the history of Guatemala and made national headlines.

2006 saw the dismemberment of the GANA in the face of the 2007 elections. It fractured into many parties, damaging the ability of the government to get legislation through congress.

In the November 2007 second round presidential elections, Alvaro Colom
Álvaro Colom
Álvaro Colom Caballeros is the President of Guatemala for the 2008–2012 term and leader of the social-democratic National Unity of Hope .-Early years:...

 of the UNE was elected president, defeating ex general Otto Perez Molina of the PP.

Administrative divisions

Guatemala is divided into 22 departments, administered by governors appointed by the president. Guatemala City
Guatemala City
Guatemala City , is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Guatemala and Central America...

 and 333 other municipalities are governed by popularly elected mayors or councils.

The departments are Alta Verapaz
Alta Verapaz
Alta Verapaz is a department in the north central part of Guatemala. The capital and chief city of the department is Cobán. Verapaz is bordered to the north by El Petén, to the east by Izabal, to the south by Zacapa, El Progreso, and Baja Verapaz, and to the west by El Quiché.Also in Alta Verapaz...

, Baja Verapaz
Baja Verapaz
Baja Verapaz is a department in Guatemala. The capital is Salamá.Baja Verapaz houses the Mario Dary Biotope Preserve, preserving the native flora and fauna of the region, especially the endangered national bird of Guatemala, the Resplendent Quetzal....

, Chimaltenango
Chimaltenango is a town in Guatemala of some 43,900 people . It serves as both the capital of the department of Chimaltenango and the municipal seat for the surrounding municipality of the same name....

, Chiquimula
Chiquimula is a city in Guatemala. It serves both as the capital of the department of Chiquimula and as the municipal seat for the surrounding municipality of the same name....

, Escuintla, Guatemala, Huehuetenango, Izabal
Izabal may refer to various locations in Guatemala:* Izabal Department* Lago de Izabal a lake within Izabal department* Izabal a town within Izabal department...

, Jalapa, Jutiapa, Petén
Petén (department)
Petén is a department of the nation of Guatemala. It is geographically the northernmost department of Guatemala, as well as the largest in size — at it accounts for about one third of Guatemala's area. The capital is Flores...

, El Progreso, Quetzaltenango, Quiché, Retalhuleu, Sacatepéquez
Sacatepéquez was a city in Guatemala from November 21, 1542 until July 29, 1773 when it was destroyed by the Santa Marta earthquake. Sacatepéquez means grasshill and gave its name to the department of Sacatepéquez....

, San Marcos, Santa Rosa, Sololá, Suchitepequez, Totonicapán, and Zacapa.

International organization participation

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