Guatemala Industry

The industry consists mainly of smaller companies that produce food, beverages and tobacco, as well as clothing, textiles and leather goods. Manufacturing has mainly focused on the domestic market and neighboring countries.

The industry accounts for just over a quarter of Guatemalan GDP and over half of that is clothing. The most important export products are textiles, fats and oils, alcohol and plastic products.


In the 1990s, maquila factories began to be established in Guatemala, as well as in other Central America. The factories are located in special economic free zones where the investment conditions are favorable. The majority of the employees are women, wages are low and unions are usually counteracted. In Guatemala most owners of maquila factories are from South Korea. Manufacture of mainly clothing and home appliances is exported, most of it to the United States and a small part to other Central American countries. The industry grew rapidly until the middle of the first decade of the 2000s when competition intensified from other low-wage countries, not least China.

  • COUNTRYAAH: List of top trading partners of Guatemala. Includes countries that imported most shipments from and exported most goods to the country.



Jerusalem is recognized as the capital of Israel

24 December

The government states that Guatemala follows the US example and moves its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Criticism has been fierce in the outside world against US President Donald Trump’s decision in early December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Many in the outside world perceive it as a symbolically charged position in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Violent protests have occurred in the Muslim world. Guatemala was one of only nine countries that voted against a UN resolution condemning the decision on 21 December. In May, Guatemala will be the first to follow the US example and move the embassy in Israel.


Congressman can be indicted for journalist murder

November 7

The Supreme Court revokes the indictment of a congressman accused of murdering two journalists (see March 2015). UN-backed Cicig has accused Julio Antonio Juárez Ramírez of having ordered the murder of one of them, Danilo López, since he reported Juarez’s tax debt. The other journalist just happened to be at the scene. Three people are being arrested on suspicion of involvement in the act.


Guatemalan is convicted in the USA for football cheating

October 25th

Lawyer Héctor Trujillo will be the first to be convicted in the United States in the big corruption scandal at the International Football Association (Fifa). Trujillo, who was arrested in Florida in December 2015, is sentenced to eight months in prison after pleading guilty to fraud during his time as Secretary General of the Guatemalan Football Federation (Fedefut).

Guatemala City’s mayor is accused of corruption

October 5

The UN-supported Commission Cicig is now prosecuting corruption charges against Álvaro Arzú, Mayor of Guatemala City and the country’s president from 1996 to 2000. His suspicions are both for setting up false pay lists and for using public funds for his reelection campaign in 2015.


President Morales risks being prosecuted again

September 27th

The Prosecutor’s Office again appeals to the Supreme Court to find out whether President Morales is guilty of corruption. This time it applies to the most recently secret salary bonus he has received from the military. The money should have been disbursed from December 2016, according to former Secretary of Defense Williams Mansilla, as a compensation for the increased risk to which Morales is exposed as president. None of the three presidents who held the post before Morales say they received any similar bonus. Morales has repaid the money. Mansilla also risks prosecution for abuse of power.

150,000 strikes to demand the resignation of the president

September 22

The dissatisfaction with politicians’ attempts to thin out anti-corruption legislation leads to new protests. These include, among other things, new laws that would allow people sentenced to prison for financial irregularities to pay a fine instead of serving their sentence (if it is less than ten years). However, the Constitutional Court stopped the legislative proposals that were later withdrawn by Congress (see September 14, 2017). Nearly 150,000 Guatemalans are participating in a national strike demanding that 107 congressmen and President Morales resign.

New trial in Switzerland against murder convicted former national police chief

September 25

A federal Swiss court decides that former Guatemalan national police chief Erwin Sperisen should be released from prison (see June 2014). The sentence was sentenced in 2014 by a Geneva court for ordering seven prisoners to murder in Guatemala in 2005/2006 (the sentence did, however, include the murder of ten prisoners). This does not mean, however, that he will be acquitted, but it was decided in July already that the trial should be redone. He will be in house arrest with a footstool until the trial against him begins on November 28. The federal court points out, among other things, that Sperisen’s lawyers had not been given sufficient opportunity to defend their client.

Controversial congressional decisions are withdrawn

September 14

Comprehensive protests erupt since Congress approved two amendments to the Penal Code, which, among other things, means that party leaders and candidates could not be prosecuted if the party violates campaign grant rules. The responsibility would instead lie with the parties’ auditors. The criticism is sharp, among other things, from the business organization Cacif, which calls on Morales to veto, and demonstrations in the capital lead to the president setting a planned parade on Independence Day. At a crisis meeting, the leaders of the major political parties will agree to overturn the law amendment. A spokesman for the president says Morales will now pay back a salary bonus he received from the military, which increased his salary by about a third.

Large strike against criminal gangs

September 14

Police forces in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala carry out joint action against the criminal gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18. Around 1,000 suspected gang members are arrested and a number of properties and vehicles are seized. According to analysts, the operation may be a result of pressure from US President Donald Trump who has promised to crush MS-13, which also operates in the United States.

The President retains his immunity from prosecution

11 September

Congress votes by overwhelming majority in order for President Morales to retain his immunity from prosecution. Only 25 of the 158 members support the motion that it be rescinded so that allegations of the president’s role in a major corruption affair can be investigated. 104 members vote no and 29 members cast their votes. Several of the members themselves are subject to similar charges of corruption. One week before the vote, the Supreme Court has decided to allow Congress to decide whether to increase prosecution immunity.

President’s party in windy weather

1 September

The Supreme Court orders President Morale’s party FCN to cease its administrative functions when the final date to pay a fine of $ 60,000 has passed. The order means that the party may not hold meetings or join new members. The fine had been fined because the party did not report on its funding contributions in time for the 2015 election. The court’s order represents a new setback for Morales just days after the Constitutional Court stopped his attempt to oust Cicig’s boss.


Political crisis when suspicions are directed at the president

August 27th

A crisis arises when the president tries to kick the head of Cicig out of the country – but the Constitutional Court cancels the order. President Jimmy Morale’s order will then prosecutor with support from UN-supported anti-corruption agency Cicig request that the president’s prosecutorial immunity be revoked, as he is suspected of funding fraud in connection with the 2015 election. Morales justifies his order with Cicig boss, Colombian lawyer Iván Velásquez, interfered with the country’s internal affairs. Morales also kicks Foreign Minister Carlos Raúl Morales. The President’s actions cause Health Minister Lucrecia Hernández Mack to resign in protest, as well as three Deputy Ministers and the Competition Commissioner. UN Secretary-General António Guterres criticizes Morales and several countries – including the US and Sweden – protest in a joint statement.

Hospital attack strengthens demands for gang legislation

August 16th

The requirements for tougher legislation against criminal gangs are tightened after armed men have managed to free an imprisoned gang leader in connection with a hospital visit. Seven people, including two children, die and 12 are injured in the exemption. Five perpetrators are arrested. Unlike El Salvador and Honduras, Guatemala has not adopted specific laws to combat gangs.


Prosecution after the orphanage fire

June 25

Five people, two high-ranking police officers and three government officials working to protect children’s rights are charged with crimes in connection with the orphanage fire in March 2017. In two of the cases, the crime classification is grossly negligent until the death of another, in another it is negligence.

Executive Vice President agrees to be extradited

June 15

Former Vice President Roxana Baldetti agrees to be extradited to the US who wants to put her on trial for drug trafficking. However, Baldetti denies the allegations and claims to be subject to “persecution of shadowy forces”. Baldetti, who has been in custody since 2015, has recently been requested to be extradited by the United States. The case also includes former Interior Minister Mauricio López, also imprisoned in his home country.


Fire disaster requires the lives of teenagers

March 8th

Three days of country grief is announced following a fire disaster at an institution where caring girls live. Nineteen teenagers perish in the fire but after a week the death toll has climbed to 40 as many die from severe burns. For many others, the condition is critical; some are flown to the United States for specialist care. All victims are between 14 and 17 years old. The fire is said to have erupted in connection with protests against poor conditions at the San José Pinula institution, which is being criticized for overcrowding and allegations of sexual abuse. After a few days, the Minister of Social Affairs resigns due to the disaster.


Several arrested for corruption crimes

30th of January

Former Police Chief Walter Vásquez and Deputy Interior Minister Manfredo Pacheco are arrested on suspicion of illegally awarding contracts worth $ 4.2 million for the arming of armored vehicles to selected companies. The target also includes former Interior Minister López Bonilla (see June 2016).

President’s son and brother arrested

January 18

José and Sammy Morales, son and brother of the president, are arrested on suspicion of corruption in connection with a state food deal. The arrests are troublesome for the president, who was fighting corruption as his main theme when he was elected.

Guatemala Industry

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