Guatemala

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Overview

Guatemala’s modern history is inextricably linked with United States involvement in the country. Guatemala’s political and social course veered into darkness after the United States intervened in 1954 by having the CIA organize a military coup that overthrew the popularly-elected president, Jacobo Arbenz. American meddling came in response to lobbying by the United Fruit Company (known as Chiquita today), whose massive landholdings were threatened by Arbenz’s proposed land reforms. The forceful removal of Arbenz established an ugly precedent for other would-be rulers to follow. For the next 30 years, coup followed coup, as the country was ruled by brutal, right-wing dictators who made use of an American-trained military that ruthlessly targeted dissent from those on the left. An estimated 50,000 Guatemalans died in the 1970s alone at the hands of government-backed death squads. A Guatemalan truth commission blamed the army for 93% of the atrocities committed over a 30-year period, and President Bill Clinton apologized for the United States’ role in supporting the government. Although relative peace finally came about in the 1990s, Guatemala continues to suffer from serious human rights violations committed by police and criminal gangs.

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Basic Information

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 Petén. The weather is predictably humid but not unbearably hot, with occasional hurricanes.

 
Population: 13 million
 
Religions: Catholic 56.9%, Protestant 30.7%, other Christian 9.8%, Spiritist 0.8%, Baha'i 0.1%, non-religious 0.9%.
 
Ethnic Groups: mestizo/Ladino and European 59.4%, K'iche 9.1%, Kaqchikel 8.4%, Mam 7.9%, Q'qchi 6.3%, other Mayan 8.6%, indigenous non-Mayan 0.2%, other 0.1%.
 
Languages: Spanish (official) 32.6%, K'iche' (e.g. Central, Cune'n, Joyabaj...) 16.3%, Mam (e.g. Central, Northern, Tajamulco, Todos Santos Cuchumatán...) 3.5%, Kaqchiket (e.g. Akatenango, Santa María de Jesús, Yepocapa Southwestern...) 3.2%, Q'eqchi' 2.8%, Achi' (Cubulcu, Rabinal) 0.6%, Ixil (Chajul, Nebaj, Jakalteko 0.6%, San Juan Cotzal) 0.5%. There are 54 official languages in Guatemala.
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History

The Mayans of Guatemala and the surrounding regions had one of the most advanced civilizations of the ancient world. Their cities flourished across Central America, complete with pyramids, temples, observatories and libraries, and their scholars produced works of literature, philosophy, art and architecture.

 
The Mayan civilization was conquered by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado in 1524. Guatemala became a republic in 1839 after the United Provinces of Central America collapsed. From 1898 to 1920, dictator Manuel Estrada Cabrera ran the country, and from 1931 to 1944, Gen. Jorge Ubico Castaneda served as strongman.
 
After Ubico's overthrow in 1944 by the “October Revolutionaries,” a group of left-leaning students and professionals, liberal-democratic coalitions led by Juan José Arévalo (1945–1951) and Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán (1951–1954) instituted social and political reforms that strengthened the peasantry and urban workers at the expense of the military and big landowners, like the US-owned United Fruit Company (later named Chiquita). With covert US backing, Col. Carlos Castillo Armas led a coup in 1954 that toppled Arbenz, who fled to Mexico. A series of repressive regimes followed, and by 1960, the country was plunged into a civil war between military governments, right-wing vigilante groups, and leftist rebels that would last 36 years, the longest civil war in Latin American history.
 
Death squads murdered an estimated 50,000 leftists and political opponents during the 1970s. In 1977, the US cut off military aid to the country because of its egregious human rights abuses. The indigenous Mayan Indians were singled out for special brutality by the right-wing death squads. By the end of the war, 200,000 citizens were dead.
 
The Seventies were also marred by a catastrophic earthquake that struck Guatemala on February 4, 1976. The 7.5 trembler killed 23,000 and left another 76,000 injured.
 
A succession of military juntas dominated during the civil war, until a new constitution was passed and civilian Marco Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo was elected and took office in 1986. He was followed by Jorge Serrano Elías in 1991. In 1993, Serrano moved to dissolve Congress and the supreme court and suspend constitutional rights, but the military deposed Serrano and allowed the inauguration of Ramiro de Leon Carpio, the former attorney general for human rights. A peace agreement was finally signed in Dec. 1996 by President Álvaro Arzú Irigoyen.
 
In 1999, a Guatemalan truth commission blamed the army for 93% of the atrocities and the rebels (the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit) for 3%. The former guerrillas apologized for their crimes, and President Bill Clinton apologized for US support of the right-wing military governments. The army has not acknowledged its guilt. Alfonso Portillo Cabrera, closely associated with the former dictatorship of Efrain Rios Montt (1982–1983), became president in January 2000. In August of that year, Portillo apologized for the former government’s human rights abuses and pledged to prosecute those responsible and compensate victims.
 
To stimulate the economy, Guatemala, along with El Salvador and Honduras, signed a free trade agreement with Mexico in June 2000. In August 2001, plans for tax increases prompted widespread, and often violent, protests.
 
In July 2003, Guatemala’s highest court ruled that former coup leader and military dictator Rios Montt, responsible for the massacre of tens of thousands of civilians during the civil war, was eligible to run for president in November. The ruling conflicted with the constitution, which banned anyone who seized power in a coup from running for the presidency. As it turned out, Montt was soundly defeated by two candidates: Conservative Oscar Berger and center-leftist Alvaro Colom. Berger won the runoff.
 
In 2004, Guatemala experienced an alarmingly violent crime wave. More than 2,000 murders took place, which were blamed on crime gangs and bands of teenagers.
 
Three Salvadoran politicians, all members of the Central American Parliament, and their driver were found murdered on a road near Guatemala City in February 2007. Four Guatemalan police officers were arrested in connection with the murders and later shot dead in their prison cells. Three other officers were named as suspects. New evidence was later found implicating independent Congressional Deputy Manuel Castillo in the murders. Castillo, who is now Mayor of Jutiapa, a town near the border with El Salvador, was linked to the murders through an analysis of 307 phone calls the four policemen made just a few hours before they were murdered in jail by fellow inmates. The investigation showed that there were calls made between the accused police and Castillo, and other calls between Castillo and five members of a drug gang from Jalpatagua, Jutiapa. The government claims that the series of phone calls proves Castillo is likely the one who ordered the hit on the officers. Shortly after the incident, Guatemala’s security minister, the national police chief, and the director of the country’s prisons all resigned due to the scandal.
 
Fourteen candidates, including 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú, competed in the first round of presidential elections in September 2007. Otto Pérez Molina, a former general, and businessman Álvaro Colom advanced to the second round. After a nasty campaign, Colom defeated Pérez Molina in the presidential election on November 4, 2007.
 
Guatemala History (Nations Encyclopedia)
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Guatemala's Newspapers
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History of U.S. Relations with Guatemala

United States involvement began in Guatemala through the business sector. Like so many Latin American countries, Guatemala became a “banana republic,” as US business interests created monopolies of their resources. United States business dealings in Latin America often blurred into both the local politics of the Latin country, and also American foreign policy. 

 
In the case of Guatemala, US business arrived in the form of the United Fruit Company (known today as Chiquita), which was hired by the Guatemalan government in 1901 to manage Guatemala’s postal service. The vice-president of United Fruit, Minor C. Keith, had a history in Central America that stretched back to 1871 when he and his family engineered the railroad project which connected San Jose to the port of Limon on the Caribbean. As a result of defaulted financing, Keith was partially compensated for his work with land, which he soon harnessed for profit by growing bananas on the acreage and utilizing the railroad for distribution. 
 
In 1899, Keith merged his banana trading concerns with Boston Fruit Company, creating the megalith corporation of United Fruit Company. Within thirty years of its 1901 arrival in Guatemala, United Fruit had absorbed more than 20 competing firms and was the largest employer in Central America. As such, United Fruit discouraged the Guatemalan government from building roads, which allowed the company to retain its transportation monopoly through the railroad and its “Great White Fleet” of steamships. United Fruit also controlled distribution of banana lands and held hostage expansive tracts of uncultivated fields. This effectively kept the land from the peasants who desired to grow their own banana crops. 
 
In 1951, Colonel Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was elected president of Guatemala. In an effort to further democratize and develop Guatemala, Arbenz legalized unions, allowed diverse political parties, permitted free expression and created programs aimed at socioeconomic reform. One such program intended to purchase unused land back from large shareholders. In the case of United Fruit, 85% of its land was unused. Under Arbenz’s program, the government would purchase idle land at the price declared in tax returns, and then redistribute it among the peasant population in an effort to alleviate rural poverty. These reforms outraged the leaders of United Fruit.
 
The company lobbied first the Truman and then the Eisenhower administrations in an attempt to convince them that Arbenz was a communist supporter aligned with the Soviet bloc. United Fruit had more than one friend in the Eisenhower administration willing to lend a sympathetic ear. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, whose law firm had represented the company, was a vocal opponent of communism. Dulles’ brother, Allen, was the director of the CIA. The brother of the Assistant Secretary of State for InterAmerican Affairs, John Moors Cabot, was a former president of the United Fruit Company. Together, these men helped convince Eisenhower that Arbenz had to be taken out.
 
Orchestrated by the CIA, a coup was launched in 1954 that removed Arbenz from power and installed as president Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, who had trained at the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and befriended many members of the American military. The coup codename was Operation SUCCESS and was the CIA’s second successful overthrow of a foreign government following the 1953 coup in Iran. 
 
In 1957, Armas was assassinated by a member of his personal guard, sparking a new round of elections, which were won by General Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes. President Fuentes authorized the training of 5,000 anti-Castro Cubans in Guatemala and provided airstrips in the Peten region for what was to become the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961. Fuentes was later pushed out by a coup involving his defense minister, Colonel Enrique Peralta Azurdia.
 
In 1966, Julio Cesar Mendez Montenegro was elected president in 1966. Although Montenegro represented the center-left party, the era of his presidency saw the rise of rightist paramilitary organizations that became forerunners of the “death squads,” groups supported and trained by the Green Berets of the United States Army Special Forces that plagued Guatemala for decades and eventually created the most sophisticated army in Central America.
 
Despite fully documented concern voiced by many United States officials involved in Guatemala, death squad activities went on wholly supported and unchecked by the US until Jimmy Carter’s administration began in 1977. Carter’s concern for human rights abuses led him to order a ban on military aid to Guatemala, although the Israeli government picked up where the US left off, providing both training and weapons to the Guatemalan army.   
 
Ronald Reagan took over the Oval Office in 1981 and promptly set about overturning Carter’s arms embargo. In 1981, the US sold $3.2 million in military vehicles to Guatemala, and by 1983, Reagan had authorized the sale of $6 million in military hardware. Around this same time, Americas Watch and attorney Stephen L. Kass were struggling to bring to light findings that catalogued cases of the rape and execution of rural women by the death squads, along with horrid accounts of children being murdered in gruesome ways. Shortly after, in 1984, Reagan approved $300,000 in military training for the Guatemalan army, and the sale of $2 million in helicopter parts.
 
The Guatemala Historical Clarification Commission reported in 1999 that the Guatemalan conflict claimed more than 200,000 lives, with the most heinous activity taking place during the 1980s. A large portion of those affected were rural and indigenous Mayans, leading many to label the era as one of genocide. 
 
Guatemala History (Global Security.org)
CIA and Assassinations: The Guatemala 1954 Documents (by Kate Doyle and Peter Kornbluh, National Security Archive, George Washington University)
The Guatemalan Military: What the U.S. Files Reveal (National Security Archive, George Washington University)
Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala (by Stephen E. Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer)
U.S. Policy In Guatemala, 1966-1996 (by Kate Doyle and Carlos Osorio, National Security Archive, GWU)
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Current U.S. Relations with Guatemala

The Guatemalan military has not received certain types of US military assistance for almost two decades, on account of Guatemalan soldiers who murdered an American citizen in 1990. Security assistance, mainly in the form of counter-drug aid, has gone primarily to the police, which have also faced serious problems of corruption and abuse. However, the US military is interested in increasing assistance to the Guatemalan military in order to enhance its capacity to combat drug trafficking. Guatemala is a significant transit country for cocaine from South America to Mexico and onward to the United States.

 
Since 1990 Congress has prohibited Guatemala from receiving assistance through the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program. Money appropriated before 1990 for the old Military Assistance Program remains frozen. Over time the funds, totaling $3.23 million, were rolled into the FMF program and they are now being held in a trust fund administered by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
 
Foreign operations legislation since 1996 has banned funding for “regular” International Military Education and Training (IMET) funds. Guatemala does receive “Expanded IMET” funding, which pays for non-combat courses such as defense resource management and civil-military relations.
 
The Guatemalan military has been receptive to counter-drug cooperation with the United States. According to the State Department, “Guatemala actively participated in the Central Skies combined counternarcotics campaign plan that included DEA and the US Army. Guatemala has also been very cooperative in allowing the US permission to enter their airspace and territorial waters in connection with counternarcotics missions.”
 
The US military works with the Guatemalan military on non-drug related issues as well, including disaster response, humanitarian and civic assistance, demining, and peacekeeping. The Guatemalan military has participated in a number of humanitarian and disaster relief exercises with the US military. For example, 350 US military personnel participated with the Guatemalan military in a New Horizons exercise to build schools, medical clinics, and water wells in March 2004. According to US Ambassador John Hamilton, “New Horizons offers a field class in how militaries can be an integral part of a civil and democratic society” and praised Guatemala for embarking on “the process of reassessing its size—and role—of its military.”
 
Most security assistance to Guatemala has gone to enhance the counter-drug capabilities of the National Civilian Police (PNC). During the past several years, the International Narcotics Control (INC) account has provided between $2.5 and $3.5 million per year to support the Guatemalan government’s anti-narcotics efforts. Generally about half or more of that assistance goes towards “Narcotics Law Enforcement,” which is divided into three categories: narcotics interdiction; drug crop eradication; and institutional development.
 
In July 2006, Guatemala was one of the Central American countries that signed the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with the US. 
 
According to US statistics, there are 372,487 Guatemalans living in the US. Considering that Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has historically accepted only 2% of refugee claims from Guatemalans, the large population of illegal immigrants tends to shy away from any sort of census and remains uncountable. Guatemalans have settled in cities with large Latino communities, in Houston, Chicago, New York, Washington, DC, southern Florida and San Francisco. The largest Guatemalan community, in Los Angeles, is more than 100,000 strong.
 
In 2006 338,472 Americans visited Guatemala, 18% more than the 286,871 that went south in 2005. The number of US tourists traveling to the Central American country has increased dramatically every year since 2002, when 199,614 Americans visited Guatemala.
 
A total of 173,793 Guatemalans visited the US in 2006. The number of Guatemalans traveling to the US has been growing sporadically since 2002, when 162,267 Guatemalans went north.
 
Guatemala and the US (Just the Facts)
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Where Does the Money Flow

Today, the United States is Guatemala’s leading partner in trade, accounting for about 45% of its $6 billion in exports. Guatemala is a prime source of cheap labor for American clothing manufacturers and retailers. The single largest import by the US is apparel and household goods, averaging $1.3 billion a year from 2003 to 2007. No other import comes close to the billion dollar mark. The next largest import, fruits and frozen juices, is valued at $452 million (2007), followed by green coffee at $309 million and crude oil at $199 million.

 
American exports to Guatemala are dominated by fuel oil ($443 million), plastic materials ($243 million), petroleum products ($221 million), cotton fiber cloth ($187 million), telecommunications equipment ($132 million) pharmaceutical preparations ($108 million) and computer accessories ($103 million). In total, the US sold $4.07 billion in goods to Guatemala in 2007, while buying $3.03 billion
 
Guatemala received $51.3 million in aid from the US in 2007. The largest recipient programs were Child Survival and Health ($14 million), Agriculture ($10.1 million), and Education ($3.5 million). The budget estimate for 2008 increases aid to Guatemala to $63 million, and the 2009 budget request will retain aid near that level, at $62.3 million. 
 
In the 2009 budget request, the largest recipient programs will be Child Survival and Health ($12.1 million), Agriculture ($10.1 million), Rule of Law and Human Rights ($8.7 million), Education ($6 million), and International Narcotic Control and Law Enforcement ($5.3 million).
 
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Controversies

Guatemala Seeks End to Adoptions by US Parents

For many years, Guatemala has been a huge source of adoptions for American parents. The Guatemalan government estimates as many as 17 babies leave each day for adoptive parents in the United States. But that number could soon drop to zero because of concerns over alleged improprieties in the Guatemalan adoption process. President Oscar Berger announced in October 2007 that adoptions to the United States would be suspended on January 1, 2008.
 
Guatemala has the highest per capita rate of adoption in the world, and the United States represents the largest number of adoptions, with an estimated one of every 100 Guatemalan babies sent to the United States. US officials estimate more than 5,000 adoptions from Guatemala would be processed in 2007, making the Central American country second only to China in adoptions to the US.
 
While adoptive parents in the United States undergo rigorous screening, adoptions in Guatemala are processed under a notary system that allows lawyers and judges to place children for adoption. Both Guatemalan and US officials fear the system leads to practices such as paying birth mothers for children, or, some instances, using coercion.
Guatemala Adoption Boom Creates Controversy (by Greg Flakus, Voice of America)
Guatemala seeks to slow exodus of babies to U.S. (by Harris Whitbeck and Rose Arce,
CNN)
 
Guatemalan Government Outraged over US Immigration Bill
Guatemala condemned a US immigration bill as “inhuman” in December 2005, saying Washington treats Latin America as a region of criminals. The bill was said to be “absolutely intolerable and inhuman” considering that US industry, trade and families have benefited from Latin American immigration, legal or illegal, Guatemalan Vice President Eduardo Stein told the press in the capital Guatemala City. “It seems a true offense to all Latin America that a government who says it is a friend and partner of the region only wants our money and products,” said Stein. The United States treats Latin America “as though we were a sub-hemisphere of criminals,” he added.
 
The vice president said the bill forced Latin America to reconsider its relations with the United States. Guatemala lodged a protest to the United States against the anti-immigration bill and agreed to fight it together with Mexico. Under the bill, a fence 1,200 km long would be built along the border between the United States and Mexico. Military technologies will also be used to prevent undocumented immigration. Stein said the immigration issue will never be solved with the construction of a fence.
 
Pentagon Proposes Lifting Military Aid Ban on Guatemala
In March 2005 the US Defense Department proposed lifting the ban on military aid to Guatemala, saying the government had embarked on a major effort to change a military accused of kidnappings and massacres during more than 30 years of civil war. “I’ve been impressed by the reforms that have been undertaken in the armed forces,” said Donald Rumsfeld, then secretary of defense. “I know it is a difficult thing to do but it’s been done with professionalism and transparency.”
 
The United States withdrew aid from Guatemala’s military in 1990 after it was learned that soldiers were involved in the killing of an American named Michael Devine.
 
Since taking office last year, President Oscar Berger had cut the military's troop strength by close to half, to 15,000 soldiers from 27,000, and he closed several bases that had been used to stage attacks against an armed insurgency. Human rights investigations showed some 200,000 people were killed or went missing in Guatemala from 1960 to 1996, mostly Mayan Indian civilians. A United Nations-backed truth commission found that 90% of those deaths were caused by the military.
 
Berger assured skeptics that such abuses had ended. “The shadow that was above our army has disappeared. Today we have a transparent army with half the personnel.”
 
Human rights organizations denounced the move. Displaced soldiers, they said, had joined powerful criminal organizations that smuggle drugs and weapons through Guatemala. Adriana Beltrán, an expert on Guatemala with the Washington Office on Latin America, a research institution, said the Guatemalan government had done very little to stop private groups of gunmen from intimidating and killing people who were working to uncover past and present human rights abuses in Guatemala.
U.S. to Lift Ban on Military Aid to Guatemala (by Ginger Thompson, New York Times)
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Human Rights

The State Department reports that the human rights situation in Guatemala continues to be quite serious. Members of the police force committed a number of unlawful killings. Corruption, intimidation, and ineffectiveness within the police and other institutions prevented adequate investigation of many such killings, as well as the arrest and successful prosecution of perpetrators.

 
The National Civilian Police (PNC) and its Office of Professional Responsibility (ORP) reported that they had investigated 29 accusations of killings involving PNC personnel. The investigations determined that PNC personnel were responsible for the deaths in 16 cases.
 
The Public Ministry charged 10 PNC officers in the alleged extrajudicial killing of Antonio de Leon Lopez in Huehuetenango during an anti-narcotics operation. The PNC arrested nine of the officers.
 
PNC officers Wilson Tobar Valenzuela and Sabino Ramos Ramirez, who served as bodyguards to PNC Director General Julio Hernandez Chaves, were arrested and detained for the alleged unlawful killings of five men in Guatemala City. The police officers arrived at the scene in a police vehicle and reportedly arrested the five victims, who were alleged gang members, four of whom had criminal records. Their bodies, with gunshots to the head, were later found in an empty field. Minister of Government Adela de Torrebiarte called for PNC Director General Julio Hernandez's resignation due to the alleged involvement of his staff in the killings. Hernandez resigned the same day.
 
There were no new developments regarding any investigation of the June 2006 shootings, one fatal, of five transvestites in Guatemala City. There also were no developments, and none were expected, regarding the 2005 killing of one transvestite and the wounding of another allegedly by persons dressed as police officers.
 
There were no new developments regarding the 2005 attempted mob lynching in Escuintla of four off-duty police officers who allegedly killed Cristian Oswaldo Rodriguez Alvarez.
 
There were no new developments regarding the search for fugitive Colonel Juan Valencia Osorio, whose 25-year prison sentence for orchestrating the 1990 killing of anthropologist Myrna Mack Chang was reinstated by the Supreme Court of Justice in 2004. By year's end Valencia had been at large for almost four years.
 
Societal violence was rampant. Non-state actors, with links to organized crime, narcotrafficking, gangs, private security companies, and alleged “clandestine” or “social cleansing” groups committed hundreds of killings and other illegal acts. The NGO Human Rights Defenders Protection Unit (UPDDH) reported that from January to October 2007, there were 178 threats and other acts of intimidation against human rights defenders, compared with 247 during the same period in 2006. Reports also suggested that former or current members of the police were involved in some of the attacks and other abuses.
 
There were credible reports that three clandestine “social cleansing” groups operated in the Kakchiquel Mayan town of Santiago Atitlan. Civil society leaders and press reported that the groups had killed at least 30 persons during the year and that local police had taken little action to stop the killings. There were allegations that former soldiers and guerillas and some local government officials were involved in these groups. Some members were reportedly arrested and detained on charges of extortion but released on bail.
 
In the period preceding the November national elections, there were more than 50 killings of municipal candidates and political activists, including some that allegedly were politically motivated.
 
Killings of all types, including those with evidence of sexual assault, torture, and mutilation of women, continued to occur. The NGO Grupo Guatemalteco de Mujeres reported that from January to October 2007, 341 women were killed. The NGO Mutual Support Group (GAM) reported that the total number of all killings of men and women from January to June that year was 2,452, slightly lower than the 2,616 reported for the same period in 2006. At year's end the PNC reported a total of 5,781 killings, including 559 killings of women, compared to 5,885 total killings, including 603 women, in 2006.
 
GAM also reported that 39 attempted lynchings took place in the first half of the year. Many observers attributed the lynchings to continued public frustration with the failure of law enforcement and judicial authorities to guarantee security. Among the victims were civil servants or police officials who had taken unpopular actions in either enforcing or failing to enforce the law. There were also reports of community lynchings of individuals suspected of kidnapping or attempting to kidnap children to sell for adoption.
 
Although there were no reports of politically motivated disappearances, there were reports of police involvement in kidnappings for ransom. The ORP reported that between January and August, there were three complaints of kidnapping by PNC personnel.
 
The District Court of Solola released and dropped charges against seven men arrested in January 2006 for extortion and kidnapping in relation to their alleged membership in the “People's Avengers” vigilante group in the municipality of San Lucas Toliman.
 
At year's end the Public Ministry continued investigating the case of the May 2006 alleged beatings of three homeless children by soldiers assigned to the Military Police Brigade.
 
There were credible reports that PNC officials or persons disguised as police officers stopped cars and buses to demand bribes or steal private property. In some cases the supposed police officers assaulted and raped victims.
 
Prison conditions remained harsh and dangerous. The prison system continued to suffer from a severe lack of resources, particularly in the areas of prison security and medical facilities. Prisoners complained of inadequate food and medical care. Corruption, especially related to illegal drug sales and use, was widespread. Prison officials reported frequent escape attempts and other manifestations of prisoner unrest.
 
Prison overcrowding continued to be a problem. The prison system registry reported that as of September, 7,143 persons were held in 40 prisons and jails designed to hold 6,974 persons. Approximately 40 percent of the national penitentiary system population was held in pretrial detention. A Ministry of Government evaluation, which found some prisons holding up to three times their capacity, reported a “total collapse” of the penitentiary system.
 
The media and NGOs reported that physical and sexual abuse of women and juvenile inmates was a serious problem. Many of the abused juvenile inmates were suspected gang members.
 
Police corruption was a serious problem, and there were credible allegations of involvement by individual police officers in criminal activity, including rapes, killings, and kidnappings. Police and immigration officials reportedly extorted and mistreated persons attempting to enter the country illegally.
 
The PNC routinely transferred officers suspected of wrongdoing rather than investigating and punishing them. PNC efforts to curb impunity included placing 52 officers in employment dismissal proceedings.
 
While no active members of the military served in the police command structure, the government continued to employ the military to support police units in response to rising crime. Joint police and military operations under operational control of the PNC continued in high-crime areas of Guatemala City, as well as in other regions of the country.
 
Police threatened persons engaged in prostitution and other commercial sexual activities with false drug charges to extort money or sexual favors and harassed homosexuals and transvestites with similar threats of false charges.
 
There were numerous reports of corruption, ineffectiveness, and manipulation of the judiciary. Judges, prosecutors, plaintiffs, and witnesses also continued to report threats, intimidation, and surveillance. The special prosecutor for crimes against judicial workers received 125 cases of threats or aggression against workers in the judicial branch, compared with 71 in 2006.
 
There were credible reports of killings of witnesses.
 
The Public Ministry reported 11 incidents of intimidation of journalists, compared with 67 during 2006. Unidentified assailants in Zacapa shot at the automobile of Nuestro Diario correspondent Wilder Jordan, reportedly in retaliation for his report alleging that a bus driver's apprentice was responsible for a public transportation accident.
 
The Public Ministry reported that it had no further information regarding the August 2006 wounding by gunshot of radio journalist Vinicio Aguilar. There were no new developments, and none were expected, regarding the 2005 report by Reporters Without Borders that former members of the civil defense patrols assaulted Prensa Libre correspondent Edwin Paxtor in Chiquimula, or regarding any investigation of the anonymous threats Paxtor claimed to have received in September 2006.
 
Government corruption was widely perceived to be a serious problem, with public surveys noting a lack of confidence in almost all government levels and institutions, including those in the legislative and judicial branches. According to the World Bank's Worldwide Government Governance Indicators, government corruption was a very serious problem. The Public Ministry continued to investigate corruption charges against former vice president Reyes Lopez, former president Alfonso Portillo, former minister of government Byron Barrientos, and other senior members of the previous government.
 
Mayors are coveted positions for organized criminals because at that level individuals control the local police and any local official in a position to report illegal activity to the state or federal level. One such mayor, Manuel de Jesus Castillo Medrano, is representative of how organized crime has taken over a city and the surrounding area. His expulsion from Colom's U.N.E. party signaled close association with Guatemala's criminal underworld, but it apparently had little effect on his campaign. Castillo was elected mayor of Jutiapa, a small town located near the border with El Salvador and the Pacific coast, an ideal geographic location for organized crime.
 
Castillo's criminal enterprise extended from stolen cars and human smuggling to drug trafficking, extortion, and fraud. He is also wanted for murder in Los Angeles, California. In 2000, Castillo was tied to the delivery of a shipment of Colombian cocaine that, when it landed, was received by Castillo, his brother Carlos Enrique, and a group of men armed with AR-15 assault rifles. At that time, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (D.E.A.) along with its Guatemalan counterpart, the Department of Anti-Narcotics Operations (D.O.A.N.), began tracking his movements.
 
The D.O.A.N. warned in 2002 that Castillo was gaining ground in Guatemalan drug trafficking, likely the reason why he ran and won a congressional seat with the U.N.E. in 2003, thus gaining immunity. Finally, in early 2007, the Guatemalan national police tied Castillo to the assassination of three Salvadorian politicians, which had been organized by corrupt policemen who were killed only hours after they were incarcerated. This event alone has led to a landmark investigation of corruption in the Guatemalan National Police. Dozens of officers have been fired, and two National Police chiefs have resigned since March 2007. There are currently investigations into Castillo's various businesses, and his political rivals are seeking to have his immunity as mayor revoked. One rival, Bacilio Cordero, who ran for mayor of Jutiapa against Castillo, received numerous death threats. Castillo represents just one of likely dozens of mayors and low-level political leaders throughout Guatemala who have direct ties to narco-trafficking organizations in both Colombia and Mexico.
 
The Supreme Court's attempts to review government evidence to strip Congressman Hector Loaiza Gramajo of his parliamentary immunity and bring him to trial on charges of fraud, tax evasion, and other crimes were stalled by two appeals Loaiza filed. At year's end the Third Court of Appeals had not decided whether to strip Loaiza of his parliamentary immunity. There were no new developments regarding the whereabouts of former director of the National Transit Authority Arnoldo Heriberto Quezada Chapeton, who failed to appear at a 2005 hearing on charges of corruption.
 
The Fifth Sentencing Court found Marco Tulio Abadio, former director of the Tax Authority (SAT), guilty of money laundering, fraud, and extortion. Abadio, who had been awaiting trial since 2004, was sentenced to 30 years in prison and fined $3.2 million (24 million quetzales). Junior Vinicio Abadio Carrillo, Abadio's son, received a 15-year prison sentence and was fined $3.2 million (24 million quetzales) for money laundering and swindling. Byron Rene Abadio Carrillo, Abadio's other son, was sentenced to six years in prison and fined $21,000 (160,000 quetzales) for money laundering. Carlos Alberto Barrera Rodas, a former SAT employee, received six years in jail and was fined $2,000 (15,000 quetzales) for fraud. Ana Angelica Diaz Fajardo, also a former SAT employee, was sentenced to six years in jail and fined $184,000 (1.4 million quetzales) for money laundering.
 
Many NGOs, human rights workers, and a number of trade unionists reported threats or intimidation by unidentified persons, many with reputed links to organized crime, private security companies, and “social cleansing” groups, and complained that the government did little to investigate these reports or to prevent further incidents.
 
Unknown assailants assaulted at gunpoint, kidnapped, and later freed Jose Roberto Morales of the Center for Legal Action for Human Rights (CALDH). Following the incident, police undertook an investigation, including surveillance of the CALDH office.
 
Angelica Gonzalez, a lawyer for CALDH, received a written death threat stating that she and other CALDH workers would be killed unless they stopped trying to protect relatives of victims killed during the country's internal armed conflict.
 
Five staff members of the Guatemalan Institute of Comparative Studies in Penal Sciences (ICCPG) received anonymous written death threats. The ICCPG believed the alleged threats were connected to their work on cases of human rights violations allegedly committed by PNC officers and their legal support for victims of police violence.
 
Sexual offenses remained a serious problem. The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape and aggravated rape, and establishes penalties between six and 50 years in prison. Prosecutors from the Special Unit for Crimes against Women noted that reports of rapes had increased by 30% over the previous four years, although some observers suggested that the increases might reflect improved recordkeeping of crime statistics.
 
Child labor was a widespread and serious problem. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), during the year almost one quarter of children had to work to survive.
Credible estimates put the number of street children at 5,000 nationwide, approximately 3,000 of them in Guatemala City. Most street children ran away from home after being abused.
 
Human Rights Watch called on lawmakers to reject a bill moving through the Guatemalan legislature that would bar single parents as well as same-sex couples from the definition of “family,” and threatens the legal status of children conceived through reproductive technologies. The bill would punish any Guatemalan officials who advocates, “in any national or international meeting,” for a different definition.  
 
The bill would declare that the nearly 40% of Guatemalan families that are not nuclear—consisting of father, mother, and children—are not families at all. Crucial health services now provided for single parents, their children, and indigenous families under a 2001 law could be taken away.  
 
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors

William Miller
Appointment: Mar 7, 1825
Note: Commissioned to the Central Republic of America. Died while en route to post.

 
John Williams
Appointment: Dec 29, 1825
Presentation of Credentials: May 3, 1826
Termination of Mission: Made farewell calls, Dec 1, 1826
Note: Commissioned to the Federation of the Centre of America.
 
William B. Rochester
Appointment: Mar 3, 1827
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Central America. Reached Central America, but returned to the United States without presenting credentials.
 
John Hamm
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Central America. Not commissioned; nomination withdrawn before the Senate acted upon it.
 
William N. Jeffers
Appointment: Jun 14, 1831
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Central America. Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; did not proceed to post.
 
James Shannon
Appointment: Feb 9, 1832
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Central America. Died en route to post.
 
Charles G. De Witt
Appointment: Jan 29, 1833
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 17, 1833
Termination of Mission: Left post about Jan 1, 1839
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Central of America.
 
Elijah Hise
Appointment: Mar 31, 1848
Presentation of Credentials: On or shortly before Jan 31, 1849
Termination of Mission: Presented recall about Jun 23, 1849
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Guatemala.
 
Ephraim G. Squier
Appointment: Apr 2, 1849
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Guatemala. Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Mar 18, 1850, but did not proceed to post.
 
Balis M. Edney
Appointment: Aug 30, 1852
Note: Did not proceed to post.
 
John Slidell
Appointment: Mar 29, 1853
Note: Commissioned to Central America; declined appointment.
 
Solon Borland
Appointment: Apr 18, 1853
Presentation of Credentials: Did not present credentials in Guatemala
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Feb 9 1854. Commissioned to Central America; accredited to the individual states.
 
John L. Marling
Appointment: Aug 2, 1854
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 14, 1855
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 8, 1856
Note: Nominated on Feb 25, 1856 to be Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary; nomination withdrawn before the Senate acted upon it. Commissioned to Guatemala.
 
William E. Venable
Appointment: Mar 14, 1857
Note: Died at post before presenting credentials. Commissioned to Guatemala.
 
Beverly L. Clarke
Appointment: Jan 7, 1858
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 13, 1858
Termination of Mission: Died at post, Mar 17, 1860
Note: Commissioned to Guatemala and Honduras; resident at Guatemala.
 
William M. Churchwell
Note: Not commissioned; nominations to be Minister Resident in Guatemala and Honduras not confirmed by the Senate.
 
Elisha O. Crosby
Appointment: Mar 22, 1861
Presentation of Credentials: May 28, 1861
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jun 22, 1864
 
William Kellogg
Appointment: Apr 21, 1864
Note: Commissioned to Guatemala; declined appointment.
 
Fitz Henry Warren
Apointment: Aug 12, 1865
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 27, 1866
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Aug 11, 1869
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Feb 6, 1866. Commissioned to Guatemala.
 
Silas A. Hudson
Appointment: Apr 22, 1869
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 11, 1869
Termination of Mission: Left post, Oct 12, 1872
Note: Commissioned to Guatemala.
 
George Williamson
Appointment: May 17, 1873
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 9, 1873
Termination of Mission: Notified the Government of Guatemala by note from Amapala, Honduras, Jan 31, 1879, that he had resigned
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 10, 1873. Commissioned to "the Central American States" but accredited individually to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and resident at Guatemala.
 
Cornelius A. Logan
Appointment: Apr 2, 1879
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 11, 1879
Termination of Mission: Transmitted recall by note Apr 12, 1882
Note: Commissioned to "the Central American States" but accredited individually to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and resident at Guatemala.
 
Henry C. Hall
Apointment: Apr 17, 1882
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 25, 1882
Termination of Mission: Promoted to Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
Note: Commissioned to "the Central American States" but accredited individually to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and resident at Guatemala.
 
Henry C. Hall
Appointment: Jul 13, 1882
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 10, 1882
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, May 15, 1889
 
Lansing B. Mizner
Appointment: Mar 30, 1889
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 4, 1889
Termination of Mission: Relinquished charge, Dec 31, 1890
Note: Commissioned to "the Central American States" but accredited individually to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and resident at Guatemala.
 
Romualdo Pacheco
Appointment: Dec 11, 1890
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 28, 1891
Termination of Mission: Recommissioned to Guatemala and Honduras only
Note: Commissioned to "the Central American States" but accredited individually to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and resident at Guatemala.
Romualdo Pacheco
Appointment: Jul 1, 1891
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Jun 12, 1893
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 23, 1891.
 
Pierce M.B. Young
Appointment: Apr 4, 1893
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 12, 1893
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 23, 1896
Note: Also commissioned to Honduras; resident at Guatemala.
 
Macgrane Coxe
Appointment: Jul 27, 1896
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 29, 1896
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jun 30, 1897
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 17, 1896. Also commissioned to Honduras; resident at Guatemala
 
W. Godfrey Hunter
Appointment: Nov 8, 1897
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 25, 1898
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Feb 2, 1903
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 18, 1897. Also commissioned to Honduras; resident at Guatemala.
 
Leslie Combs
Appointment: Nov 12, 1902
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 2, 1903
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Feb 25, 1907
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 8, 1902. Also commissioned to Honduras; resident at Guatemala.
 
Joseph W.J. Lee
Appointment: Jan 10, 1907
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 19, 1907
Termination of Mission: Recommissioned to Guatemala only
Note: Also commissioned to Honduras; resident at Guatemala.
Joseph W.J. Lee
Appointment: Jul 1, 1907
Termination of Mission: Left post, Oct. 13, 1907
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate.
 
William Heimke
Appointment: Mar 10, 1908
Presentation of Credentials: May 2, 1908
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Sep 30, 1909
 
William F. Sands
Appointment: Aug 4, 1909
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 9, 1909
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Oct 14, 1910
 
R.S. Reynolds Hitt
Appointment: Sep 17, 1910
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 14, 1910
Termination of Mission: Left post, Mar 4, 1913
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 15, 1910.
 
William Hayne Leavell
Appointment: Oct 16, 1913
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 29, 1913
Termination of Mission: Left post, Oct 24, 1918
 
Benton McMillin
Appointment: Sep 23, 1919
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 15, 1920
Termination of Mission: Normal relations interrupted, Dec 6, 1921; new Government of Guatemala still unrecognized by United States when McMillin left post, Jan 5, 1922
 
Roy T. Davis
Appointment: Oct 8, 1921
Note: Took oath of office, but did not proceed to post.
 
Arthur H. Geissler
Apointment: May 24, 1922
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 31, 1922
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jan 23, 1930
 
Sheldon Whitehouse
Appointment: Dec 16, 1929
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 21, 1930
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 23, 1933
 
Matthew E. Hanna
Appointment: Jul 17, 1933
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 28, 1933
Termination of Mission: Left post, Feb 9, 1936
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 15, 1934.
 
Fay A. Des Portes
Appointment: Apr 25, 1936
Presentation of Credentials: May 22, 1936
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 14, 1943
 
Boaz Long
Appointment: Mar 27, 1943
Presentation of Credentials: May 19, 1943
Termination of Mission: Left post, Apr 11, 1945
 
Edwin Jackson Kyle
Appointment: Feb 9, 1945
Presentation of Credentials: May 8, 1945
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 22, 1948
 
Richard C. Patterson, Jr.
Appointment: Sep 29, 1948
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 24, 1948
Termination of Mission: Left post, Mar 28, 1950
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Mar 2, 1949.
 
Rudolf E. Schoenfeld
Appointment: Mar 13, 1951
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 24, 1951
Termination of Mission: Left post, Oct 19, 1953
 
John E. Peurifoy
Appointment: Oct 5, 1953
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 4, 1953
Termination of Mission: Left post, Oct 2, 1954
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 26, 1954.
 
Norman Armour
Appointment: Sep 15, 1954
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 18, 1954
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 9, 1955
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 3, 1954.
 
Edward J. Sparks
Appointment: Jun 14, 1955
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 29, 1955
Termination of Mission: Left post, Feb 15, 1958
 
Lester D. Mallory
Appointment: Feb 5, 1958
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 27, 1958
Termination of Mission: Left post, Nov 11, 1959
 
John J. Muccio
Appointment: Dec 24, 1959
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 1, 1960
Termination of Mission: Left post, Nov 10, 1961
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 21, 1960.
 
John O. Bell
Appointment: Nov 10, 1916
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 30, 1962
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 26, 1965
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 30, 1962.
 
John Gordon Mein
Appointment: Sep 1, 1965
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 22, 1965
Termination of Mission: Assassinated at post, Aug 28, 1968
 
Nathaniel Davis
Appointment: Oct 17, 1968
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 21, 1968
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 21, 1971
 
William G. Bowdler
Appointment: Sep 30, 1971
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 19, 1971
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 26, 1973
 
Fancis E. Meloy, Jr.
Appointment: Dec 19, 1973
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 7, 1974
Termination of Mission: Left post, Apr 19, 1976
 
Davis E. Boster
Appointment: Sep 16, 1976
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 13, 1976
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jan 17, 1979
 
Frank V. Ortiz, Jr.
Appointment: Jul 3, 1979
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 17, 1979
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 6, 1980
Note: Melvin E. Sinn served as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim, Aug 1980–Sep 1981.
 
Frederic L. Chapin
Appointment: Jul 30, 1981
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 3, 1981
Termination of Mission: Left post, Feb 28, 1984
 
Alberto Martinez Piedra
Appointment: Jun 28, 1984
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 17, 1984
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 22, 1987
 
James H. Michel
Appointment: Sep 28, 1987
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 28, 1987
Termination of Mission: Left post, Sep 1, 1989
 
Thomas F. Stroock
Appointment: Oct 3, 1989
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 31, 1989
Termination of Mission: Left post, Nov 10, 1992
 
Marilyn McAfee
Appointment: May 28, 1993
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 16, 1993
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jun 20, 1996
Note: An earlier nomination of May 13, 1992, was not acted upon by the Senate.
 
Donald B. Planty
Appointment: Jul 2, 1996
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 22, 1996
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 14, 1999
 
Prudence Bushnell
Appointment: Jul 7, 1999
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 14, 1999
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 15, 2002
 
John Randle Hamilton
Appointment: Nov 26, 2002
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 3, 2003
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 15, 2005
 
James M. Derham
Appointment: May 31, 2005
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 1, 2005
Termination of Mission: 2008
 
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Guatemala's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Ligorria, Julio

 

Jose Julio Alejandro Ligorria Carballido presented his credentials as Guatemala’s ambassador to the United States to President Barack Obama on September 5, 2013. It’s the first ambassadorial posting for the longtime political consultant.

 

Ligorría was born August 20, 1956. He went to secondary school at Liceo Javier in Guatemala City and went on to attend Universidad Rafael Landivar, also in Guatemala City.

 

In 1979, Ligorría became chief executive officer of the Guatemala Managers’ Association, a group that provides training and support for managers in that country’s public and private sector. Ligorría in 1982 was made executive vice president of the Chamber of Free Enterprise, whose activities included polling on upcoming elections in Guatemala. During that period he also helped promote the first civic forum of candidates for the presidency of Guatemala.

 

Ligorría struck out on his own in 1985 to become a consultant in crisis management and public affairs. He founded a company, Interimage LatinoAmerica in 1988 and has been advising politicians and lobbying on behalf of corporations throughout Latin America since then. He has advised candidates in several Guatemalan presidential campaigns and acted as a crisis consultant for the presidents of Peru and Ecuador.

 

Ligorría also had many corporations as clients. He represented Enron when that company was trying to take over the electric utility for the city of Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala. Enron won the contract. Ligorría has also worked for Coca-Cola, Universal and JPMorgan.

 

In addition to his consultancies, Ligorría is partner in a company, MAN B&W, selling German industrial engines to companies throughout Latin America. His business interests also include owning a company, UGAL, Inc., involved in distance learning in higher education.

 

The job that might have prepared him best for the ambassadorial post is his 1993 work as consultant to the Guatemalan Foreign Minister in the preparation of the relaunching of the plan for peace negotiations submitted to the United Nations.

 

Ligorría also hosted a television show in Guatemala and has given seminars in political strategy at several universities, including George Washington University.

 

As ambassador, one of Ligorría’s top priorities is to make Guatemala’s case for immigration reform in the United States, addressing the needs of the many Guatemalans in the U.S. without documentation.

 

Ligorria’s wife,  Elizabeth, died of breast cancer in 2008 and left behind a book, Mañana Viviré, that detailed her experiences with terminal cancer.

-Steve Straehley

 

Official Biography

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Guatemala's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
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U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala

Robinson, Todd
ambassador-image

 

On July 10, 2014, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard testimony from Todd D. Robinson on his nomination by President Barack Obama to be the next U.S. ambassador to Guatemala. It would be the first ambassadorial post for Robinson, a career Foreign Service officer, but it is not his first posting to Guatemala.

 

Robinson is from Fanwood, New Jersey and graduated from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School in 1981. He went on to attend Georgetown University, earning a B.S. in Foreign Service in 1985. Robinson’s first job out of college was as a journalist. He joined the State Department in 1986.

 

Most of Robinson’s career has been spent in Latin America. His first overseas postings were to Colombia in 1987 and El Salvador in 1989, returning to Washington in 1991 to serve as a watch officer at the State Department operations center. Robinson was sent to Rome in 1993 as staff assistant to the U.S. ambassador to Italy. In 1995, he moved across town to the U.S. mission to the Holy See (Vatican City), serving as political officer.

 

Robinson was sent back to Latin America in 1997 as political officer at the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia. He came home in 1999 as special assistant to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In 2000, Robinson was named deputy counselor for Political and Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic. He was sent back to Europe in 2004 as chief of the Political and Economic Section in the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, Albania.

 

Robinson was named consul general in Barcelona, Spain in 2006. In 2009, Robinson was sent to Guatemala as deputy chief of mission, serving there until 2011. He then returned to Washington as deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, beginning in June 2011.

 

In his confirmation hearing, Robinson was closely questioned, particularly from Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), on the flow of undocumented children from Guatemala into the United States. Robinson replied that it would be among his highest priorities to address that issue with the Guatemalan government.

 

Robinson speaks Spanish, Italian and Albanian.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography

Statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (pdf)

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Previous U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala

Chacon, Arnold
ambassador-image

After 30 years in the Foreign Service, Arnold A. Chacon received his first appointment as ambassador, to Guatemala, in June 2011. He was confirmed by the Senate on August 2.

 
Originally from Denver, Chacon is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, with a BA in international affairs. From 1974-1980, he was involved in Amigos de las Américas (AMIGOS), a program that encourages young adults to volunteer in Latin America. Chacon began as a volunteer in Nicaragua and Honduras; worked as staff in Nicaragua, Ecuador and Mexico; and then served on the International Office staff.
 
He began his diplomatic career in 1981.
 
He has served in a number of overseas posts including and political/consular officer in Honduras, staff assistant to the chief of mission in Mexico, political officer in Italy and Chile, political counselor in Peru, and deputy chief of mission in Ecuador (2002-2005).
 
Chacon also served as an American Political Science Association Fellow, watch officer in the State Department’s Operations Center, political advisor at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Italy desk officer, special assistant to the assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, and deputy director of Central American affairs.
 
His last three assignments before becoming ambassador were deputy executive secretary in the State Department’s Executive Secretariat (2005-2007), director of Andean affairs in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Madrid, Spain.
 
Chacon and his wife, Alida (originally from Honduras), have two daughters and a son.
 

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Overview

Guatemala’s modern history is inextricably linked with United States involvement in the country. Guatemala’s political and social course veered into darkness after the United States intervened in 1954 by having the CIA organize a military coup that overthrew the popularly-elected president, Jacobo Arbenz. American meddling came in response to lobbying by the United Fruit Company (known as Chiquita today), whose massive landholdings were threatened by Arbenz’s proposed land reforms. The forceful removal of Arbenz established an ugly precedent for other would-be rulers to follow. For the next 30 years, coup followed coup, as the country was ruled by brutal, right-wing dictators who made use of an American-trained military that ruthlessly targeted dissent from those on the left. An estimated 50,000 Guatemalans died in the 1970s alone at the hands of government-backed death squads. A Guatemalan truth commission blamed the army for 93% of the atrocities committed over a 30-year period, and President Bill Clinton apologized for the United States’ role in supporting the government. Although relative peace finally came about in the 1990s, Guatemala continues to suffer from serious human rights violations committed by police and criminal gangs.

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Basic Information

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 Petén. The weather is predictably humid but not unbearably hot, with occasional hurricanes.

 
Population: 13 million
 
Religions: Catholic 56.9%, Protestant 30.7%, other Christian 9.8%, Spiritist 0.8%, Baha'i 0.1%, non-religious 0.9%.
 
Ethnic Groups: mestizo/Ladino and European 59.4%, K'iche 9.1%, Kaqchikel 8.4%, Mam 7.9%, Q'qchi 6.3%, other Mayan 8.6%, indigenous non-Mayan 0.2%, other 0.1%.
 
Languages: Spanish (official) 32.6%, K'iche' (e.g. Central, Cune'n, Joyabaj...) 16.3%, Mam (e.g. Central, Northern, Tajamulco, Todos Santos Cuchumatán...) 3.5%, Kaqchiket (e.g. Akatenango, Santa María de Jesús, Yepocapa Southwestern...) 3.2%, Q'eqchi' 2.8%, Achi' (Cubulcu, Rabinal) 0.6%, Ixil (Chajul, Nebaj, Jakalteko 0.6%, San Juan Cotzal) 0.5%. There are 54 official languages in Guatemala.
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History

The Mayans of Guatemala and the surrounding regions had one of the most advanced civilizations of the ancient world. Their cities flourished across Central America, complete with pyramids, temples, observatories and libraries, and their scholars produced works of literature, philosophy, art and architecture.

 
The Mayan civilization was conquered by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado in 1524. Guatemala became a republic in 1839 after the United Provinces of Central America collapsed. From 1898 to 1920, dictator Manuel Estrada Cabrera ran the country, and from 1931 to 1944, Gen. Jorge Ubico Castaneda served as strongman.
 
After Ubico's overthrow in 1944 by the “October Revolutionaries,” a group of left-leaning students and professionals, liberal-democratic coalitions led by Juan José Arévalo (1945–1951) and Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán (1951–1954) instituted social and political reforms that strengthened the peasantry and urban workers at the expense of the military and big landowners, like the US-owned United Fruit Company (later named Chiquita). With covert US backing, Col. Carlos Castillo Armas led a coup in 1954 that toppled Arbenz, who fled to Mexico. A series of repressive regimes followed, and by 1960, the country was plunged into a civil war between military governments, right-wing vigilante groups, and leftist rebels that would last 36 years, the longest civil war in Latin American history.
 
Death squads murdered an estimated 50,000 leftists and political opponents during the 1970s. In 1977, the US cut off military aid to the country because of its egregious human rights abuses. The indigenous Mayan Indians were singled out for special brutality by the right-wing death squads. By the end of the war, 200,000 citizens were dead.
 
The Seventies were also marred by a catastrophic earthquake that struck Guatemala on February 4, 1976. The 7.5 trembler killed 23,000 and left another 76,000 injured.
 
A succession of military juntas dominated during the civil war, until a new constitution was passed and civilian Marco Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo was elected and took office in 1986. He was followed by Jorge Serrano Elías in 1991. In 1993, Serrano moved to dissolve Congress and the supreme court and suspend constitutional rights, but the military deposed Serrano and allowed the inauguration of Ramiro de Leon Carpio, the former attorney general for human rights. A peace agreement was finally signed in Dec. 1996 by President Álvaro Arzú Irigoyen.
 
In 1999, a Guatemalan truth commission blamed the army for 93% of the atrocities and the rebels (the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit) for 3%. The former guerrillas apologized for their crimes, and President Bill Clinton apologized for US support of the right-wing military governments. The army has not acknowledged its guilt. Alfonso Portillo Cabrera, closely associated with the former dictatorship of Efrain Rios Montt (1982–1983), became president in January 2000. In August of that year, Portillo apologized for the former government’s human rights abuses and pledged to prosecute those responsible and compensate victims.
 
To stimulate the economy, Guatemala, along with El Salvador and Honduras, signed a free trade agreement with Mexico in June 2000. In August 2001, plans for tax increases prompted widespread, and often violent, protests.
 
In July 2003, Guatemala’s highest court ruled that former coup leader and military dictator Rios Montt, responsible for the massacre of tens of thousands of civilians during the civil war, was eligible to run for president in November. The ruling conflicted with the constitution, which banned anyone who seized power in a coup from running for the presidency. As it turned out, Montt was soundly defeated by two candidates: Conservative Oscar Berger and center-leftist Alvaro Colom. Berger won the runoff.
 
In 2004, Guatemala experienced an alarmingly violent crime wave. More than 2,000 murders took place, which were blamed on crime gangs and bands of teenagers.
 
Three Salvadoran politicians, all members of the Central American Parliament, and their driver were found murdered on a road near Guatemala City in February 2007. Four Guatemalan police officers were arrested in connection with the murders and later shot dead in their prison cells. Three other officers were named as suspects. New evidence was later found implicating independent Congressional Deputy Manuel Castillo in the murders. Castillo, who is now Mayor of Jutiapa, a town near the border with El Salvador, was linked to the murders through an analysis of 307 phone calls the four policemen made just a few hours before they were murdered in jail by fellow inmates. The investigation showed that there were calls made between the accused police and Castillo, and other calls between Castillo and five members of a drug gang from Jalpatagua, Jutiapa. The government claims that the series of phone calls proves Castillo is likely the one who ordered the hit on the officers. Shortly after the incident, Guatemala’s security minister, the national police chief, and the director of the country’s prisons all resigned due to the scandal.
 
Fourteen candidates, including 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú, competed in the first round of presidential elections in September 2007. Otto Pérez Molina, a former general, and businessman Álvaro Colom advanced to the second round. After a nasty campaign, Colom defeated Pérez Molina in the presidential election on November 4, 2007.
 
Guatemala History (Nations Encyclopedia)
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History of U.S. Relations with Guatemala

United States involvement began in Guatemala through the business sector. Like so many Latin American countries, Guatemala became a “banana republic,” as US business interests created monopolies of their resources. United States business dealings in Latin America often blurred into both the local politics of the Latin country, and also American foreign policy. 

 
In the case of Guatemala, US business arrived in the form of the United Fruit Company (known today as Chiquita), which was hired by the Guatemalan government in 1901 to manage Guatemala’s postal service. The vice-president of United Fruit, Minor C. Keith, had a history in Central America that stretched back to 1871 when he and his family engineered the railroad project which connected San Jose to the port of Limon on the Caribbean. As a result of defaulted financing, Keith was partially compensated for his work with land, which he soon harnessed for profit by growing bananas on the acreage and utilizing the railroad for distribution. 
 
In 1899, Keith merged his banana trading concerns with Boston Fruit Company, creating the megalith corporation of United Fruit Company. Within thirty years of its 1901 arrival in Guatemala, United Fruit had absorbed more than 20 competing firms and was the largest employer in Central America. As such, United Fruit discouraged the Guatemalan government from building roads, which allowed the company to retain its transportation monopoly through the railroad and its “Great White Fleet” of steamships. United Fruit also controlled distribution of banana lands and held hostage expansive tracts of uncultivated fields. This effectively kept the land from the peasants who desired to grow their own banana crops. 
 
In 1951, Colonel Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was elected president of Guatemala. In an effort to further democratize and develop Guatemala, Arbenz legalized unions, allowed diverse political parties, permitted free expression and created programs aimed at socioeconomic reform. One such program intended to purchase unused land back from large shareholders. In the case of United Fruit, 85% of its land was unused. Under Arbenz’s program, the government would purchase idle land at the price declared in tax returns, and then redistribute it among the peasant population in an effort to alleviate rural poverty. These reforms outraged the leaders of United Fruit.
 
The company lobbied first the Truman and then the Eisenhower administrations in an attempt to convince them that Arbenz was a communist supporter aligned with the Soviet bloc. United Fruit had more than one friend in the Eisenhower administration willing to lend a sympathetic ear. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, whose law firm had represented the company, was a vocal opponent of communism. Dulles’ brother, Allen, was the director of the CIA. The brother of the Assistant Secretary of State for InterAmerican Affairs, John Moors Cabot, was a former president of the United Fruit Company. Together, these men helped convince Eisenhower that Arbenz had to be taken out.
 
Orchestrated by the CIA, a coup was launched in 1954 that removed Arbenz from power and installed as president Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, who had trained at the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and befriended many members of the American military. The coup codename was Operation SUCCESS and was the CIA’s second successful overthrow of a foreign government following the 1953 coup in Iran. 
 
In 1957, Armas was assassinated by a member of his personal guard, sparking a new round of elections, which were won by General Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes. President Fuentes authorized the training of 5,000 anti-Castro Cubans in Guatemala and provided airstrips in the Peten region for what was to become the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961. Fuentes was later pushed out by a coup involving his defense minister, Colonel Enrique Peralta Azurdia.
 
In 1966, Julio Cesar Mendez Montenegro was elected president in 1966. Although Montenegro represented the center-left party, the era of his presidency saw the rise of rightist paramilitary organizations that became forerunners of the “death squads,” groups supported and trained by the Green Berets of the United States Army Special Forces that plagued Guatemala for decades and eventually created the most sophisticated army in Central America.
 
Despite fully documented concern voiced by many United States officials involved in Guatemala, death squad activities went on wholly supported and unchecked by the US until Jimmy Carter’s administration began in 1977. Carter’s concern for human rights abuses led him to order a ban on military aid to Guatemala, although the Israeli government picked up where the US left off, providing both training and weapons to the Guatemalan army.   
 
Ronald Reagan took over the Oval Office in 1981 and promptly set about overturning Carter’s arms embargo. In 1981, the US sold $3.2 million in military vehicles to Guatemala, and by 1983, Reagan had authorized the sale of $6 million in military hardware. Around this same time, Americas Watch and attorney Stephen L. Kass were struggling to bring to light findings that catalogued cases of the rape and execution of rural women by the death squads, along with horrid accounts of children being murdered in gruesome ways. Shortly after, in 1984, Reagan approved $300,000 in military training for the Guatemalan army, and the sale of $2 million in helicopter parts.
 
The Guatemala Historical Clarification Commission reported in 1999 that the Guatemalan conflict claimed more than 200,000 lives, with the most heinous activity taking place during the 1980s. A large portion of those affected were rural and indigenous Mayans, leading many to label the era as one of genocide. 
 
Guatemala History (Global Security.org)
CIA and Assassinations: The Guatemala 1954 Documents (by Kate Doyle and Peter Kornbluh, National Security Archive, George Washington University)
The Guatemalan Military: What the U.S. Files Reveal (National Security Archive, George Washington University)
Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala (by Stephen E. Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer)
U.S. Policy In Guatemala, 1966-1996 (by Kate Doyle and Carlos Osorio, National Security Archive, GWU)
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Current U.S. Relations with Guatemala

The Guatemalan military has not received certain types of US military assistance for almost two decades, on account of Guatemalan soldiers who murdered an American citizen in 1990. Security assistance, mainly in the form of counter-drug aid, has gone primarily to the police, which have also faced serious problems of corruption and abuse. However, the US military is interested in increasing assistance to the Guatemalan military in order to enhance its capacity to combat drug trafficking. Guatemala is a significant transit country for cocaine from South America to Mexico and onward to the United States.

 
Since 1990 Congress has prohibited Guatemala from receiving assistance through the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program. Money appropriated before 1990 for the old Military Assistance Program remains frozen. Over time the funds, totaling $3.23 million, were rolled into the FMF program and they are now being held in a trust fund administered by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
 
Foreign operations legislation since 1996 has banned funding for “regular” International Military Education and Training (IMET) funds. Guatemala does receive “Expanded IMET” funding, which pays for non-combat courses such as defense resource management and civil-military relations.
 
The Guatemalan military has been receptive to counter-drug cooperation with the United States. According to the State Department, “Guatemala actively participated in the Central Skies combined counternarcotics campaign plan that included DEA and the US Army. Guatemala has also been very cooperative in allowing the US permission to enter their airspace and territorial waters in connection with counternarcotics missions.”
 
The US military works with the Guatemalan military on non-drug related issues as well, including disaster response, humanitarian and civic assistance, demining, and peacekeeping. The Guatemalan military has participated in a number of humanitarian and disaster relief exercises with the US military. For example, 350 US military personnel participated with the Guatemalan military in a New Horizons exercise to build schools, medical clinics, and water wells in March 2004. According to US Ambassador John Hamilton, “New Horizons offers a field class in how militaries can be an integral part of a civil and democratic society” and praised Guatemala for embarking on “the process of reassessing its size—and role—of its military.”
 
Most security assistance to Guatemala has gone to enhance the counter-drug capabilities of the National Civilian Police (PNC). During the past several years, the International Narcotics Control (INC) account has provided between $2.5 and $3.5 million per year to support the Guatemalan government’s anti-narcotics efforts. Generally about half or more of that assistance goes towards “Narcotics Law Enforcement,” which is divided into three categories: narcotics interdiction; drug crop eradication; and institutional development.
 
In July 2006, Guatemala was one of the Central American countries that signed the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with the US. 
 
According to US statistics, there are 372,487 Guatemalans living in the US. Considering that Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has historically accepted only 2% of refugee claims from Guatemalans, the large population of illegal immigrants tends to shy away from any sort of census and remains uncountable. Guatemalans have settled in cities with large Latino communities, in Houston, Chicago, New York, Washington, DC, southern Florida and San Francisco. The largest Guatemalan community, in Los Angeles, is more than 100,000 strong.
 
In 2006 338,472 Americans visited Guatemala, 18% more than the 286,871 that went south in 2005. The number of US tourists traveling to the Central American country has increased dramatically every year since 2002, when 199,614 Americans visited Guatemala.
 
A total of 173,793 Guatemalans visited the US in 2006. The number of Guatemalans traveling to the US has been growing sporadically since 2002, when 162,267 Guatemalans went north.
 
Guatemala and the US (Just the Facts)
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Where Does the Money Flow

Today, the United States is Guatemala’s leading partner in trade, accounting for about 45% of its $6 billion in exports. Guatemala is a prime source of cheap labor for American clothing manufacturers and retailers. The single largest import by the US is apparel and household goods, averaging $1.3 billion a year from 2003 to 2007. No other import comes close to the billion dollar mark. The next largest import, fruits and frozen juices, is valued at $452 million (2007), followed by green coffee at $309 million and crude oil at $199 million.

 
American exports to Guatemala are dominated by fuel oil ($443 million), plastic materials ($243 million), petroleum products ($221 million), cotton fiber cloth ($187 million), telecommunications equipment ($132 million) pharmaceutical preparations ($108 million) and computer accessories ($103 million). In total, the US sold $4.07 billion in goods to Guatemala in 2007, while buying $3.03 billion
 
Guatemala received $51.3 million in aid from the US in 2007. The largest recipient programs were Child Survival and Health ($14 million), Agriculture ($10.1 million), and Education ($3.5 million). The budget estimate for 2008 increases aid to Guatemala to $63 million, and the 2009 budget request will retain aid near that level, at $62.3 million. 
 
In the 2009 budget request, the largest recipient programs will be Child Survival and Health ($12.1 million), Agriculture ($10.1 million), Rule of Law and Human Rights ($8.7 million), Education ($6 million), and International Narcotic Control and Law Enforcement ($5.3 million).
 
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Controversies

Guatemala Seeks End to Adoptions by US Parents

For many years, Guatemala has been a huge source of adoptions for American parents. The Guatemalan government estimates as many as 17 babies leave each day for adoptive parents in the United States. But that number could soon drop to zero because of concerns over alleged improprieties in the Guatemalan adoption process. President Oscar Berger announced in October 2007 that adoptions to the United States would be suspended on January 1, 2008.
 
Guatemala has the highest per capita rate of adoption in the world, and the United States represents the largest number of adoptions, with an estimated one of every 100 Guatemalan babies sent to the United States. US officials estimate more than 5,000 adoptions from Guatemala would be processed in 2007, making the Central American country second only to China in adoptions to the US.
 
While adoptive parents in the United States undergo rigorous screening, adoptions in Guatemala are processed under a notary system that allows lawyers and judges to place children for adoption. Both Guatemalan and US officials fear the system leads to practices such as paying birth mothers for children, or, some instances, using coercion.
Guatemala Adoption Boom Creates Controversy (by Greg Flakus, Voice of America)
Guatemala seeks to slow exodus of babies to U.S. (by Harris Whitbeck and Rose Arce,
CNN)
 
Guatemalan Government Outraged over US Immigration Bill
Guatemala condemned a US immigration bill as “inhuman” in December 2005, saying Washington treats Latin America as a region of criminals. The bill was said to be “absolutely intolerable and inhuman” considering that US industry, trade and families have benefited from Latin American immigration, legal or illegal, Guatemalan Vice President Eduardo Stein told the press in the capital Guatemala City. “It seems a true offense to all Latin America that a government who says it is a friend and partner of the region only wants our money and products,” said Stein. The United States treats Latin America “as though we were a sub-hemisphere of criminals,” he added.
 
The vice president said the bill forced Latin America to reconsider its relations with the United States. Guatemala lodged a protest to the United States against the anti-immigration bill and agreed to fight it together with Mexico. Under the bill, a fence 1,200 km long would be built along the border between the United States and Mexico. Military technologies will also be used to prevent undocumented immigration. Stein said the immigration issue will never be solved with the construction of a fence.
 
Pentagon Proposes Lifting Military Aid Ban on Guatemala
In March 2005 the US Defense Department proposed lifting the ban on military aid to Guatemala, saying the government had embarked on a major effort to change a military accused of kidnappings and massacres during more than 30 years of civil war. “I’ve been impressed by the reforms that have been undertaken in the armed forces,” said Donald Rumsfeld, then secretary of defense. “I know it is a difficult thing to do but it’s been done with professionalism and transparency.”
 
The United States withdrew aid from Guatemala’s military in 1990 after it was learned that soldiers were involved in the killing of an American named Michael Devine.
 
Since taking office last year, President Oscar Berger had cut the military's troop strength by close to half, to 15,000 soldiers from 27,000, and he closed several bases that had been used to stage attacks against an armed insurgency. Human rights investigations showed some 200,000 people were killed or went missing in Guatemala from 1960 to 1996, mostly Mayan Indian civilians. A United Nations-backed truth commission found that 90% of those deaths were caused by the military.
 
Berger assured skeptics that such abuses had ended. “The shadow that was above our army has disappeared. Today we have a transparent army with half the personnel.”
 
Human rights organizations denounced the move. Displaced soldiers, they said, had joined powerful criminal organizations that smuggle drugs and weapons through Guatemala. Adriana Beltrán, an expert on Guatemala with the Washington Office on Latin America, a research institution, said the Guatemalan government had done very little to stop private groups of gunmen from intimidating and killing people who were working to uncover past and present human rights abuses in Guatemala.
U.S. to Lift Ban on Military Aid to Guatemala (by Ginger Thompson, New York Times)
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Human Rights

The State Department reports that the human rights situation in Guatemala continues to be quite serious. Members of the police force committed a number of unlawful killings. Corruption, intimidation, and ineffectiveness within the police and other institutions prevented adequate investigation of many such killings, as well as the arrest and successful prosecution of perpetrators.

 
The National Civilian Police (PNC) and its Office of Professional Responsibility (ORP) reported that they had investigated 29 accusations of killings involving PNC personnel. The investigations determined that PNC personnel were responsible for the deaths in 16 cases.
 
The Public Ministry charged 10 PNC officers in the alleged extrajudicial killing of Antonio de Leon Lopez in Huehuetenango during an anti-narcotics operation. The PNC arrested nine of the officers.
 
PNC officers Wilson Tobar Valenzuela and Sabino Ramos Ramirez, who served as bodyguards to PNC Director General Julio Hernandez Chaves, were arrested and detained for the alleged unlawful killings of five men in Guatemala City. The police officers arrived at the scene in a police vehicle and reportedly arrested the five victims, who were alleged gang members, four of whom had criminal records. Their bodies, with gunshots to the head, were later found in an empty field. Minister of Government Adela de Torrebiarte called for PNC Director General Julio Hernandez's resignation due to the alleged involvement of his staff in the killings. Hernandez resigned the same day.
 
There were no new developments regarding any investigation of the June 2006 shootings, one fatal, of five transvestites in Guatemala City. There also were no developments, and none were expected, regarding the 2005 killing of one transvestite and the wounding of another allegedly by persons dressed as police officers.
 
There were no new developments regarding the 2005 attempted mob lynching in Escuintla of four off-duty police officers who allegedly killed Cristian Oswaldo Rodriguez Alvarez.
 
There were no new developments regarding the search for fugitive Colonel Juan Valencia Osorio, whose 25-year prison sentence for orchestrating the 1990 killing of anthropologist Myrna Mack Chang was reinstated by the Supreme Court of Justice in 2004. By year's end Valencia had been at large for almost four years.
 
Societal violence was rampant. Non-state actors, with links to organized crime, narcotrafficking, gangs, private security companies, and alleged “clandestine” or “social cleansing” groups committed hundreds of killings and other illegal acts. The NGO Human Rights Defenders Protection Unit (UPDDH) reported that from January to October 2007, there were 178 threats and other acts of intimidation against human rights defenders, compared with 247 during the same period in 2006. Reports also suggested that former or current members of the police were involved in some of the attacks and other abuses.
 
There were credible reports that three clandestine “social cleansing” groups operated in the Kakchiquel Mayan town of Santiago Atitlan. Civil society leaders and press reported that the groups had killed at least 30 persons during the year and that local police had taken little action to stop the killings. There were allegations that former soldiers and guerillas and some local government officials were involved in these groups. Some members were reportedly arrested and detained on charges of extortion but released on bail.
 
In the period preceding the November national elections, there were more than 50 killings of municipal candidates and political activists, including some that allegedly were politically motivated.
 
Killings of all types, including those with evidence of sexual assault, torture, and mutilation of women, continued to occur. The NGO Grupo Guatemalteco de Mujeres reported that from January to October 2007, 341 women were killed. The NGO Mutual Support Group (GAM) reported that the total number of all killings of men and women from January to June that year was 2,452, slightly lower than the 2,616 reported for the same period in 2006. At year's end the PNC reported a total of 5,781 killings, including 559 killings of women, compared to 5,885 total killings, including 603 women, in 2006.
 
GAM also reported that 39 attempted lynchings took place in the first half of the year. Many observers attributed the lynchings to continued public frustration with the failure of law enforcement and judicial authorities to guarantee security. Among the victims were civil servants or police officials who had taken unpopular actions in either enforcing or failing to enforce the law. There were also reports of community lynchings of individuals suspected of kidnapping or attempting to kidnap children to sell for adoption.
 
Although there were no reports of politically motivated disappearances, there were reports of police involvement in kidnappings for ransom. The ORP reported that between January and August, there were three complaints of kidnapping by PNC personnel.
 
The District Court of Solola released and dropped charges against seven men arrested in January 2006 for extortion and kidnapping in relation to their alleged membership in the “People's Avengers” vigilante group in the municipality of San Lucas Toliman.
 
At year's end the Public Ministry continued investigating the case of the May 2006 alleged beatings of three homeless children by soldiers assigned to the Military Police Brigade.
 
There were credible reports that PNC officials or persons disguised as police officers stopped cars and buses to demand bribes or steal private property. In some cases the supposed police officers assaulted and raped victims.
 
Prison conditions remained harsh and dangerous. The prison system continued to suffer from a severe lack of resources, particularly in the areas of prison security and medical facilities. Prisoners complained of inadequate food and medical care. Corruption, especially related to illegal drug sales and use, was widespread. Prison officials reported frequent escape attempts and other manifestations of prisoner unrest.
 
Prison overcrowding continued to be a problem. The prison system registry reported that as of September, 7,143 persons were held in 40 prisons and jails designed to hold 6,974 persons. Approximately 40 percent of the national penitentiary system population was held in pretrial detention. A Ministry of Government evaluation, which found some prisons holding up to three times their capacity, reported a “total collapse” of the penitentiary system.
 
The media and NGOs reported that physical and sexual abuse of women and juvenile inmates was a serious problem. Many of the abused juvenile inmates were suspected gang members.
 
Police corruption was a serious problem, and there were credible allegations of involvement by individual police officers in criminal activity, including rapes, killings, and kidnappings. Police and immigration officials reportedly extorted and mistreated persons attempting to enter the country illegally.
 
The PNC routinely transferred officers suspected of wrongdoing rather than investigating and punishing them. PNC efforts to curb impunity included placing 52 officers in employment dismissal proceedings.
 
While no active members of the military served in the police command structure, the government continued to employ the military to support police units in response to rising crime. Joint police and military operations under operational control of the PNC continued in high-crime areas of Guatemala City, as well as in other regions of the country.
 
Police threatened persons engaged in prostitution and other commercial sexual activities with false drug charges to extort money or sexual favors and harassed homosexuals and transvestites with similar threats of false charges.
 
There were numerous reports of corruption, ineffectiveness, and manipulation of the judiciary. Judges, prosecutors, plaintiffs, and witnesses also continued to report threats, intimidation, and surveillance. The special prosecutor for crimes against judicial workers received 125 cases of threats or aggression against workers in the judicial branch, compared with 71 in 2006.
 
There were credible reports of killings of witnesses.
 
The Public Ministry reported 11 incidents of intimidation of journalists, compared with 67 during 2006. Unidentified assailants in Zacapa shot at the automobile of Nuestro Diario correspondent Wilder Jordan, reportedly in retaliation for his report alleging that a bus driver's apprentice was responsible for a public transportation accident.
 
The Public Ministry reported that it had no further information regarding the August 2006 wounding by gunshot of radio journalist Vinicio Aguilar. There were no new developments, and none were expected, regarding the 2005 report by Reporters Without Borders that former members of the civil defense patrols assaulted Prensa Libre correspondent Edwin Paxtor in Chiquimula, or regarding any investigation of the anonymous threats Paxtor claimed to have received in September 2006.
 
Government corruption was widely perceived to be a serious problem, with public surveys noting a lack of confidence in almost all government levels and institutions, including those in the legislative and judicial branches. According to the World Bank's Worldwide Government Governance Indicators, government corruption was a very serious problem. The Public Ministry continued to investigate corruption charges against former vice president Reyes Lopez, former president Alfonso Portillo, former minister of government Byron Barrientos, and other senior members of the previous government.
 
Mayors are coveted positions for organized criminals because at that level individuals control the local police and any local official in a position to report illegal activity to the state or federal level. One such mayor, Manuel de Jesus Castillo Medrano, is representative of how organized crime has taken over a city and the surrounding area. His expulsion from Colom's U.N.E. party signaled close association with Guatemala's criminal underworld, but it apparently had little effect on his campaign. Castillo was elected mayor of Jutiapa, a small town located near the border with El Salvador and the Pacific coast, an ideal geographic location for organized crime.
 
Castillo's criminal enterprise extended from stolen cars and human smuggling to drug trafficking, extortion, and fraud. He is also wanted for murder in Los Angeles, California. In 2000, Castillo was tied to the delivery of a shipment of Colombian cocaine that, when it landed, was received by Castillo, his brother Carlos Enrique, and a group of men armed with AR-15 assault rifles. At that time, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (D.E.A.) along with its Guatemalan counterpart, the Department of Anti-Narcotics Operations (D.O.A.N.), began tracking his movements.
 
The D.O.A.N. warned in 2002 that Castillo was gaining ground in Guatemalan drug trafficking, likely the reason why he ran and won a congressional seat with the U.N.E. in 2003, thus gaining immunity. Finally, in early 2007, the Guatemalan national police tied Castillo to the assassination of three Salvadorian politicians, which had been organized by corrupt policemen who were killed only hours after they were incarcerated. This event alone has led to a landmark investigation of corruption in the Guatemalan National Police. Dozens of officers have been fired, and two National Police chiefs have resigned since March 2007. There are currently investigations into Castillo's various businesses, and his political rivals are seeking to have his immunity as mayor revoked. One rival, Bacilio Cordero, who ran for mayor of Jutiapa against Castillo, received numerous death threats. Castillo represents just one of likely dozens of mayors and low-level political leaders throughout Guatemala who have direct ties to narco-trafficking organizations in both Colombia and Mexico.
 
The Supreme Court's attempts to review government evidence to strip Congressman Hector Loaiza Gramajo of his parliamentary immunity and bring him to trial on charges of fraud, tax evasion, and other crimes were stalled by two appeals Loaiza filed. At year's end the Third Court of Appeals had not decided whether to strip Loaiza of his parliamentary immunity. There were no new developments regarding the whereabouts of former director of the National Transit Authority Arnoldo Heriberto Quezada Chapeton, who failed to appear at a 2005 hearing on charges of corruption.
 
The Fifth Sentencing Court found Marco Tulio Abadio, former director of the Tax Authority (SAT), guilty of money laundering, fraud, and extortion. Abadio, who had been awaiting trial since 2004, was sentenced to 30 years in prison and fined $3.2 million (24 million quetzales). Junior Vinicio Abadio Carrillo, Abadio's son, received a 15-year prison sentence and was fined $3.2 million (24 million quetzales) for money laundering and swindling. Byron Rene Abadio Carrillo, Abadio's other son, was sentenced to six years in prison and fined $21,000 (160,000 quetzales) for money laundering. Carlos Alberto Barrera Rodas, a former SAT employee, received six years in jail and was fined $2,000 (15,000 quetzales) for fraud. Ana Angelica Diaz Fajardo, also a former SAT employee, was sentenced to six years in jail and fined $184,000 (1.4 million quetzales) for money laundering.
 
Many NGOs, human rights workers, and a number of trade unionists reported threats or intimidation by unidentified persons, many with reputed links to organized crime, private security companies, and “social cleansing” groups, and complained that the government did little to investigate these reports or to prevent further incidents.
 
Unknown assailants assaulted at gunpoint, kidnapped, and later freed Jose Roberto Morales of the Center for Legal Action for Human Rights (CALDH). Following the incident, police undertook an investigation, including surveillance of the CALDH office.
 
Angelica Gonzalez, a lawyer for CALDH, received a written death threat stating that she and other CALDH workers would be killed unless they stopped trying to protect relatives of victims killed during the country's internal armed conflict.
 
Five staff members of the Guatemalan Institute of Comparative Studies in Penal Sciences (ICCPG) received anonymous written death threats. The ICCPG believed the alleged threats were connected to their work on cases of human rights violations allegedly committed by PNC officers and their legal support for victims of police violence.
 
Sexual offenses remained a serious problem. The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape and aggravated rape, and establishes penalties between six and 50 years in prison. Prosecutors from the Special Unit for Crimes against Women noted that reports of rapes had increased by 30% over the previous four years, although some observers suggested that the increases might reflect improved recordkeeping of crime statistics.
 
Child labor was a widespread and serious problem. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), during the year almost one quarter of children had to work to survive.
Credible estimates put the number of street children at 5,000 nationwide, approximately 3,000 of them in Guatemala City. Most street children ran away from home after being abused.
 
Human Rights Watch called on lawmakers to reject a bill moving through the Guatemalan legislature that would bar single parents as well as same-sex couples from the definition of “family,” and threatens the legal status of children conceived through reproductive technologies. The bill would punish any Guatemalan officials who advocates, “in any national or international meeting,” for a different definition.  
 
The bill would declare that the nearly 40% of Guatemalan families that are not nuclear—consisting of father, mother, and children—are not families at all. Crucial health services now provided for single parents, their children, and indigenous families under a 2001 law could be taken away.  
 
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors

William Miller
Appointment: Mar 7, 1825
Note: Commissioned to the Central Republic of America. Died while en route to post.

 
John Williams
Appointment: Dec 29, 1825
Presentation of Credentials: May 3, 1826
Termination of Mission: Made farewell calls, Dec 1, 1826
Note: Commissioned to the Federation of the Centre of America.
 
William B. Rochester
Appointment: Mar 3, 1827
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Central America. Reached Central America, but returned to the United States without presenting credentials.
 
John Hamm
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Central America. Not commissioned; nomination withdrawn before the Senate acted upon it.
 
William N. Jeffers
Appointment: Jun 14, 1831
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Central America. Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; did not proceed to post.
 
James Shannon
Appointment: Feb 9, 1832
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Central America. Died en route to post.
 
Charles G. De Witt
Appointment: Jan 29, 1833
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 17, 1833
Termination of Mission: Left post about Jan 1, 1839
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Central of America.
 
Elijah Hise
Appointment: Mar 31, 1848
Presentation of Credentials: On or shortly before Jan 31, 1849
Termination of Mission: Presented recall about Jun 23, 1849
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Guatemala.
 
Ephraim G. Squier
Appointment: Apr 2, 1849
Note: Commissioned to the Republic of Guatemala. Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Mar 18, 1850, but did not proceed to post.
 
Balis M. Edney
Appointment: Aug 30, 1852
Note: Did not proceed to post.
 
John Slidell
Appointment: Mar 29, 1853
Note: Commissioned to Central America; declined appointment.
 
Solon Borland
Appointment: Apr 18, 1853
Presentation of Credentials: Did not present credentials in Guatemala
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Feb 9 1854. Commissioned to Central America; accredited to the individual states.
 
John L. Marling
Appointment: Aug 2, 1854
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 14, 1855
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 8, 1856
Note: Nominated on Feb 25, 1856 to be Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary; nomination withdrawn before the Senate acted upon it. Commissioned to Guatemala.
 
William E. Venable
Appointment: Mar 14, 1857
Note: Died at post before presenting credentials. Commissioned to Guatemala.
 
Beverly L. Clarke
Appointment: Jan 7, 1858
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 13, 1858
Termination of Mission: Died at post, Mar 17, 1860
Note: Commissioned to Guatemala and Honduras; resident at Guatemala.
 
William M. Churchwell
Note: Not commissioned; nominations to be Minister Resident in Guatemala and Honduras not confirmed by the Senate.
 
Elisha O. Crosby
Appointment: Mar 22, 1861
Presentation of Credentials: May 28, 1861
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jun 22, 1864
 
William Kellogg
Appointment: Apr 21, 1864
Note: Commissioned to Guatemala; declined appointment.
 
Fitz Henry Warren
Apointment: Aug 12, 1865
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 27, 1866
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Aug 11, 1869
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Feb 6, 1866. Commissioned to Guatemala.
 
Silas A. Hudson
Appointment: Apr 22, 1869
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 11, 1869
Termination of Mission: Left post, Oct 12, 1872
Note: Commissioned to Guatemala.
 
George Williamson
Appointment: May 17, 1873
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 9, 1873
Termination of Mission: Notified the Government of Guatemala by note from Amapala, Honduras, Jan 31, 1879, that he had resigned
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 10, 1873. Commissioned to "the Central American States" but accredited individually to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and resident at Guatemala.
 
Cornelius A. Logan
Appointment: Apr 2, 1879
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 11, 1879
Termination of Mission: Transmitted recall by note Apr 12, 1882
Note: Commissioned to "the Central American States" but accredited individually to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and resident at Guatemala.
 
Henry C. Hall
Apointment: Apr 17, 1882
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 25, 1882
Termination of Mission: Promoted to Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
Note: Commissioned to "the Central American States" but accredited individually to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and resident at Guatemala.
 
Henry C. Hall
Appointment: Jul 13, 1882
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 10, 1882
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, May 15, 1889
 
Lansing B. Mizner
Appointment: Mar 30, 1889
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 4, 1889
Termination of Mission: Relinquished charge, Dec 31, 1890
Note: Commissioned to "the Central American States" but accredited individually to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and resident at Guatemala.
 
Romualdo Pacheco
Appointment: Dec 11, 1890
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 28, 1891
Termination of Mission: Recommissioned to Guatemala and Honduras only
Note: Commissioned to "the Central American States" but accredited individually to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and resident at Guatemala.
Romualdo Pacheco
Appointment: Jul 1, 1891
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Jun 12, 1893
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 23, 1891.
 
Pierce M.B. Young
Appointment: Apr 4, 1893
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 12, 1893
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 23, 1896
Note: Also commissioned to Honduras; resident at Guatemala.
 
Macgrane Coxe
Appointment: Jul 27, 1896
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 29, 1896
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jun 30, 1897
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 17, 1896. Also commissioned to Honduras; resident at Guatemala
 
W. Godfrey Hunter
Appointment: Nov 8, 1897
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 25, 1898
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Feb 2, 1903
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 18, 1897. Also commissioned to Honduras; resident at Guatemala.
 
Leslie Combs
Appointment: Nov 12, 1902
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 2, 1903
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Feb 25, 1907
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 8, 1902. Also commissioned to Honduras; resident at Guatemala.
 
Joseph W.J. Lee
Appointment: Jan 10, 1907
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 19, 1907
Termination of Mission: Recommissioned to Guatemala only
Note: Also commissioned to Honduras; resident at Guatemala.
Joseph W.J. Lee
Appointment: Jul 1, 1907
Termination of Mission: Left post, Oct. 13, 1907
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate.
 
William Heimke
Appointment: Mar 10, 1908
Presentation of Credentials: May 2, 1908
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Sep 30, 1909
 
William F. Sands
Appointment: Aug 4, 1909
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 9, 1909
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Oct 14, 1910
 
R.S. Reynolds Hitt
Appointment: Sep 17, 1910
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 14, 1910
Termination of Mission: Left post, Mar 4, 1913
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 15, 1910.
 
William Hayne Leavell
Appointment: Oct 16, 1913
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 29, 1913
Termination of Mission: Left post, Oct 24, 1918
 
Benton McMillin
Appointment: Sep 23, 1919
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 15, 1920
Termination of Mission: Normal relations interrupted, Dec 6, 1921; new Government of Guatemala still unrecognized by United States when McMillin left post, Jan 5, 1922
 
Roy T. Davis
Appointment: Oct 8, 1921
Note: Took oath of office, but did not proceed to post.
 
Arthur H. Geissler
Apointment: May 24, 1922
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 31, 1922
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jan 23, 1930
 
Sheldon Whitehouse
Appointment: Dec 16, 1929
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 21, 1930
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 23, 1933
 
Matthew E. Hanna
Appointment: Jul 17, 1933
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 28, 1933
Termination of Mission: Left post, Feb 9, 1936
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 15, 1934.
 
Fay A. Des Portes
Appointment: Apr 25, 1936
Presentation of Credentials: May 22, 1936
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 14, 1943
 
Boaz Long
Appointment: Mar 27, 1943
Presentation of Credentials: May 19, 1943
Termination of Mission: Left post, Apr 11, 1945
 
Edwin Jackson Kyle
Appointment: Feb 9, 1945
Presentation of Credentials: May 8, 1945
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 22, 1948
 
Richard C. Patterson, Jr.
Appointment: Sep 29, 1948
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 24, 1948
Termination of Mission: Left post, Mar 28, 1950
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Mar 2, 1949.
 
Rudolf E. Schoenfeld
Appointment: Mar 13, 1951
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 24, 1951
Termination of Mission: Left post, Oct 19, 1953
 
John E. Peurifoy
Appointment: Oct 5, 1953
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 4, 1953
Termination of Mission: Left post, Oct 2, 1954
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 26, 1954.
 
Norman Armour
Appointment: Sep 15, 1954
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 18, 1954
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 9, 1955
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 3, 1954.
 
Edward J. Sparks
Appointment: Jun 14, 1955
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 29, 1955
Termination of Mission: Left post, Feb 15, 1958
 
Lester D. Mallory
Appointment: Feb 5, 1958
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 27, 1958
Termination of Mission: Left post, Nov 11, 1959
 
John J. Muccio
Appointment: Dec 24, 1959
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 1, 1960
Termination of Mission: Left post, Nov 10, 1961
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 21, 1960.
 
John O. Bell
Appointment: Nov 10, 1916
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 30, 1962
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 26, 1965
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 30, 1962.
 
John Gordon Mein
Appointment: Sep 1, 1965
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 22, 1965
Termination of Mission: Assassinated at post, Aug 28, 1968
 
Nathaniel Davis
Appointment: Oct 17, 1968
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 21, 1968
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 21, 1971
 
William G. Bowdler
Appointment: Sep 30, 1971
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 19, 1971
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 26, 1973
 
Fancis E. Meloy, Jr.
Appointment: Dec 19, 1973
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 7, 1974
Termination of Mission: Left post, Apr 19, 1976
 
Davis E. Boster
Appointment: Sep 16, 1976
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 13, 1976
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jan 17, 1979
 
Frank V. Ortiz, Jr.
Appointment: Jul 3, 1979
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 17, 1979
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 6, 1980
Note: Melvin E. Sinn served as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim, Aug 1980–Sep 1981.
 
Frederic L. Chapin
Appointment: Jul 30, 1981
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 3, 1981
Termination of Mission: Left post, Feb 28, 1984
 
Alberto Martinez Piedra
Appointment: Jun 28, 1984
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 17, 1984
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 22, 1987
 
James H. Michel
Appointment: Sep 28, 1987
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 28, 1987
Termination of Mission: Left post, Sep 1, 1989
 
Thomas F. Stroock
Appointment: Oct 3, 1989
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 31, 1989
Termination of Mission: Left post, Nov 10, 1992
 
Marilyn McAfee
Appointment: May 28, 1993
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 16, 1993
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jun 20, 1996
Note: An earlier nomination of May 13, 1992, was not acted upon by the Senate.
 
Donald B. Planty
Appointment: Jul 2, 1996
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 22, 1996
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 14, 1999
 
Prudence Bushnell
Appointment: Jul 7, 1999
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 14, 1999
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 15, 2002
 
John Randle Hamilton
Appointment: Nov 26, 2002
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 3, 2003
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 15, 2005
 
James M. Derham
Appointment: May 31, 2005
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 1, 2005
Termination of Mission: 2008
 
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Guatemala's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Ligorria, Julio

 

Jose Julio Alejandro Ligorria Carballido presented his credentials as Guatemala’s ambassador to the United States to President Barack Obama on September 5, 2013. It’s the first ambassadorial posting for the longtime political consultant.

 

Ligorría was born August 20, 1956. He went to secondary school at Liceo Javier in Guatemala City and went on to attend Universidad Rafael Landivar, also in Guatemala City.

 

In 1979, Ligorría became chief executive officer of the Guatemala Managers’ Association, a group that provides training and support for managers in that country’s public and private sector. Ligorría in 1982 was made executive vice president of the Chamber of Free Enterprise, whose activities included polling on upcoming elections in Guatemala. During that period he also helped promote the first civic forum of candidates for the presidency of Guatemala.

 

Ligorría struck out on his own in 1985 to become a consultant in crisis management and public affairs. He founded a company, Interimage LatinoAmerica in 1988 and has been advising politicians and lobbying on behalf of corporations throughout Latin America since then. He has advised candidates in several Guatemalan presidential campaigns and acted as a crisis consultant for the presidents of Peru and Ecuador.

 

Ligorría also had many corporations as clients. He represented Enron when that company was trying to take over the electric utility for the city of Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala. Enron won the contract. Ligorría has also worked for Coca-Cola, Universal and JPMorgan.

 

In addition to his consultancies, Ligorría is partner in a company, MAN B&W, selling German industrial engines to companies throughout Latin America. His business interests also include owning a company, UGAL, Inc., involved in distance learning in higher education.

 

The job that might have prepared him best for the ambassadorial post is his 1993 work as consultant to the Guatemalan Foreign Minister in the preparation of the relaunching of the plan for peace negotiations submitted to the United Nations.

 

Ligorría also hosted a television show in Guatemala and has given seminars in political strategy at several universities, including George Washington University.

 

As ambassador, one of Ligorría’s top priorities is to make Guatemala’s case for immigration reform in the United States, addressing the needs of the many Guatemalans in the U.S. without documentation.

 

Ligorria’s wife,  Elizabeth, died of breast cancer in 2008 and left behind a book, Mañana Viviré, that detailed her experiences with terminal cancer.

-Steve Straehley

 

Official Biography

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Guatemala's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
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U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala

Robinson, Todd
ambassador-image

 

On July 10, 2014, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard testimony from Todd D. Robinson on his nomination by President Barack Obama to be the next U.S. ambassador to Guatemala. It would be the first ambassadorial post for Robinson, a career Foreign Service officer, but it is not his first posting to Guatemala.

 

Robinson is from Fanwood, New Jersey and graduated from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School in 1981. He went on to attend Georgetown University, earning a B.S. in Foreign Service in 1985. Robinson’s first job out of college was as a journalist. He joined the State Department in 1986.

 

Most of Robinson’s career has been spent in Latin America. His first overseas postings were to Colombia in 1987 and El Salvador in 1989, returning to Washington in 1991 to serve as a watch officer at the State Department operations center. Robinson was sent to Rome in 1993 as staff assistant to the U.S. ambassador to Italy. In 1995, he moved across town to the U.S. mission to the Holy See (Vatican City), serving as political officer.

 

Robinson was sent back to Latin America in 1997 as political officer at the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia. He came home in 1999 as special assistant to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In 2000, Robinson was named deputy counselor for Political and Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic. He was sent back to Europe in 2004 as chief of the Political and Economic Section in the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, Albania.

 

Robinson was named consul general in Barcelona, Spain in 2006. In 2009, Robinson was sent to Guatemala as deputy chief of mission, serving there until 2011. He then returned to Washington as deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, beginning in June 2011.

 

In his confirmation hearing, Robinson was closely questioned, particularly from Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), on the flow of undocumented children from Guatemala into the United States. Robinson replied that it would be among his highest priorities to address that issue with the Guatemalan government.

 

Robinson speaks Spanish, Italian and Albanian.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography

Statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (pdf)

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Previous U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala

Chacon, Arnold
ambassador-image

After 30 years in the Foreign Service, Arnold A. Chacon received his first appointment as ambassador, to Guatemala, in June 2011. He was confirmed by the Senate on August 2.

 
Originally from Denver, Chacon is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, with a BA in international affairs. From 1974-1980, he was involved in Amigos de las Américas (AMIGOS), a program that encourages young adults to volunteer in Latin America. Chacon began as a volunteer in Nicaragua and Honduras; worked as staff in Nicaragua, Ecuador and Mexico; and then served on the International Office staff.
 
He began his diplomatic career in 1981.
 
He has served in a number of overseas posts including and political/consular officer in Honduras, staff assistant to the chief of mission in Mexico, political officer in Italy and Chile, political counselor in Peru, and deputy chief of mission in Ecuador (2002-2005).
 
Chacon also served as an American Political Science Association Fellow, watch officer in the State Department’s Operations Center, political advisor at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Italy desk officer, special assistant to the assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, and deputy director of Central American affairs.
 
His last three assignments before becoming ambassador were deputy executive secretary in the State Department’s Executive Secretariat (2005-2007), director of Andean affairs in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Madrid, Spain.
 
Chacon and his wife, Alida (originally from Honduras), have two daughters and a son.
 

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