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Overview

Guatemala is Central America’s largest country in terms of economy and population, and plays a pivotal role in regional trade and integration. The nation has one of the most skewed income distributions in the world, which heightens its characterization as a land of contrasts and a country of two faces.

Despite a wealth of natural and cultural resources, an estimated 51 percent of its people live in poverty and over half of children under 5 years old suffer chronic malnutrition. Most of the poor are rural indigenous people, most often women, of Mayan descent who have suffered a long history of repression and exclusion from fully participating in society. They were also the most seriously affected by the 36-year armed civil conflict (1960-1996) that claimed more lives than conflicts in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile and Argentina combined.

Significant progress has been made to turn this tide since the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996. The society has strong potential with rich natural resources; management talent; a large, young labor force; proven capability to produce high-quality products; and the potential  to capitalize on U.S. and Central American markets.

Nevertheless, Guatemala is a highly divided society with many weak and antiquated public-sector institutions, deep rural poverty and chronic malnutrition. It is increasingly bombarded by migration, natural disasters, gang violence, escalating crime rates and the corrosive effects of narco-trafficking. 

Working with public-sector institutions, civil society, the private sector and other donors, USAID supports numerous reforms including:

  • Fighting corruption;
  • Increasing public sector transparency, accountability and management;
  • Promoting rural development and competitiveness; and
  • Improving access to and quality of health care and primary education.

The Agency collaborates with the private sector and NGOs to:

  • Open new markets;
  • Create jobs and raise incomes of the poor; and
  • Forge public-private partnerships committed to a broad development agenda.

Last updated: March 10, 2014

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