Guatemala Government and Politics

According to, Guatemala is a presidential democratic republic. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of GT and its meanings of Guatemala. The 1985 Constitution states that the executive resides with a president who is elected every four years (with two rounds of elections if no one gets more than 50 percent in the first place) and cannot be re-elected. The President is Head of State and Government. Everyone over the age of 18 has the right to vote, except members of the armed forces.

The legislative power (National Assembly) is in Congress, which has a chamber of 158 members. Congressional elections happen at the same time as the presidential elections. In the congressional elections, the provinces are constituencies with proportional elections. However, 25 of the 158 are selected from a national list where the candidates are appointed directly from the national leadership of the parties.

The Constitution also gives the Supreme Electoral Tribunal the rank of independent state power.

Guatemala Country Flag

Reference: Guatemala Flag Meaning

The courts

The judicial power lies in an independent judiciary in which the Supreme Court presides over a system of regional appeals courts, provincial-based district courts and so-called peace judges in civil cases. There are also several special courts (for example in cases involving the murder of women, in child cases and in corruption cases), as well as their own military courts and a separate constitutional court. The Constitutional Court interprets the law when the Constitution is involved. It consists of five judges elected for five years by Congress, the Supreme Court, the President, the Board of the University of San Carlos and the country’s bar association.

The Supreme Court has 13 members elected by Congress and sits for five years. Each year, they elect a president from their own ranks. The Supreme Court also acts as a court administration through which all judges change positions every five years.

In Mayan-dominated areas, the local Mayan mayors also have local jurisdiction. The Constitution and the Peace Agreement stipulate that Guatemala is multicultural and in 2012 the Supreme Court decided that Mayan law is equivalent to national law.

Administrative division

Administratively, the Republic is divided into 22 provinces (departamentos) which are further divided into 340 municipalities (municipios). In parallel with the presidential and congressional elections every four years, mayors and municipal councils are elected. Municipal councils are proportionally composed (principle of the presidency).

In the Mayan areas, every community also chooses their own “branch mayors” (alcaldes comunales) each year, which at the same time acts as a link to the party politically elected municipal mayor. The provincial governors are appointed by the president.

Guatemala’s political parties are weak, short-lived and largely organized around strong and presumably electable personalities. The party apparatus acts as campaign apparatus. Especially during the 2000s, black election campaigns have increasingly been infiltrated. The money comes from corrupt handling of public funds as well as the transport of drugs from South America to the United States.

Guatemala’s defense

Guatemala has volunteer military service. The total force figures for Guatemala’s armed forces are 18,050 active personnel, with a reserve of 63,850 personnel (2018, IISS). In addition, there are 25,000 semi-military national police forces.


The army has a strength of 15 550 active personnel. The equipment includes 47 armored personnel vehicles, light artillery and anti-aircraft artillery.

Air Force

The Air Force has a force of 1,000 active personnel. The material includes one attack aircraft of type A-37B Dragonfly, 16 light transport aircraft, four training aircraft and 17 helicopters.

The Navy

The Navy has a workforce of 1500 active personnel. The fleet comprises 10 patrol vessels, two landing craft and three auxiliary vessels.

International operations

Guatemala participated in the UN operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) in 2018 with 150 personnel and five observers, and with observers and a small number of personnel in the UN operations in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), in Lebanon (UNIFIL), in Mali (MINUSMA), in Sudan (UNISFA), and in South Sudan (UNMISS).

Presidents of Guatemala

Overview of Presidents of Guatemala.



1898–1920 Manuel Estrada Cabrera
1920–1921 Carlos Herrera Luna
1921–1926 José María Orellana
1926–1930 Lázaro Chacón González
1930 Baudilio Palma
1930–1931 Manuel María Orellana Contreras
1931 José María Reina Andrade
1931–1944 Jorge Ubico Castañeda
1944–1945 Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán
1945–1951 Juan José Arévalo
1951–1954 Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán
1954–1957 Carlos Castillo Arms
1957 Luis Arturo González López
1957–1958 Guillermo Flores Avendaño
1958–1963 Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes
1963–1966 Enrique Peralta Azurdia
1966–1970 Julio César Méndez Montenegro
1970–1974 Carlos Manuel Araña Osorio
1974–1978 Kjell Eugenio Laugerud García
1978–1982 Fernando Romeo Lucas García
1982–1983 Efraín Ríos Montt
1983–1986 Óscar Humberto Mejía Victores
1986–1991 Vinicio Cherry Arévalo Frame
1991–1993 Jorge Serrano Elías
1993–1996 Ramiro de León Carpio
1996–2000 Alvaro Arzú Irigoyen
2000–2004 Alfonso Portillo Cabrera
2004–2008 Oscar Berger Perdomo
2008–2012 Álvaro Colom Caballeros
2012–2015 Otto Pérez Molina
2016– Jimmy Morales Cabrera

Guatemalan National Anthem

The national anthem is ¡Guatemala feliz! (‘Happy Guatemala’) with lyrics by José Joaquín Palma and melody by Rafael Alvarez Ovalle. The song was chosen after a competition and officially accepted as the national anthem 1896.

Guatemalan flag and weapons

The national flag

The national flag is divided into three equally wide vertical fields in blue, white and blue. The white flag of the war flag is coated with the national arms. The flag was put into service in 1871. The stripes in the flag date from the flag of the Central American United States in the 1820s and 1830s and are also found in the flags of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. The blue color is the same as in Argentina’s flag.

The coat of arms

The national arms show a yellow parchment scroll with the inscription Libertad 15 de septiembre 1821 (‘Freedom 15 September 1821’, reflects on the liberation of Central America from Spain). Behind the reel are two crucifixed Remington rifles with planted bayonets and two crossed sabers, above the reel a yellow, green and red quartz hall (the sacred bird of the Mayans and Aztecs). It is all surrounded by two green laurel branches. The weapon was originally designed in 1843, officially accepted in 1871, and had its current design in 1997.

Guatemala Head of Government

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