Country of the World Guatemala

About the country Guatemala its location, size, population, leaders and rulers.




Lay of the Land: Guatemala is the northernmost country in Central America. The country has three distinct geographical regions--the highlands (4,500 to 9,000 ft. elevation), where most of the population lives; the Pacific coastal lowland; and the large northern tropical forest area called Peten. The weather is predictably humid but not unbearably hot, with occasional hurricanes.

Size: 42,042 sq. mi. (108,889 sq. km.).

Population: 6 million.

Who Rules: The 1965 Guatemalan constitution declares that the country is a representative democracy, but Guatemala's political history has long been characterized by dictatorial repression. During the first two years of the military administration of Guatemala's current leader, Gen. Kjell Laugerud Garcia, nearly 400 people were executed as political enemies. Over 20,000 people have been killed or have mysteriously disappeared during the past 10 years.

Who REALLY Rules: Despite Guatemala's refusal to accept U.S. military aid if accompanied by interference in Guatemalan human rights issues, the U.S. continues to play an extremely important role in Guatemala's political development. U.S. interests and subsidiaries dominate the economy. When leftist elements came to power under presidents Juan Jose Arevalo and Jacobo Arbenz Guzman in the postwar decade and made plans for land reform and nationalizations, U.S. landholders and investors grew alarmed. In mid-1954 the U.S., through its Honduran and Nicaraguan allies, invaded Guatemala and ousted Arbenz. The puppet president, Col. Carlos Castillo Armas, then returned the expropriated lands to their U.S. owners.

Presently, right-wing elements and the military rule in Guatemala. Only 2.2% of the population owns over 70% of the arable land, mostly in huge coffee and banana plantations. Topechelon military leaders, with their elite social background and their U.S. military training, are almost inevitably reactionaries to the core. Left-wing and even moderate political movements are suppressed, although guerrilla groups like FAR (Revolutionary Armed Forces) have carried on a constant battle with the government since the CIA-sponsored overthrow of Arbenz Guzman.

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