More information about Guatemala is available on the Guatemala Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
The United States established diplomatic relations with Guatemala in 1849 following Guatemala’s independence from Spain on September 15, 1821 and the later dissolution of a federation of Central American states.
U.S. policy objectives in Guatemala include:
- Protecting U.S. citizens and the Homeland, dismantling transnational criminal organizations and gangs, and increasing citizen security in Guatemala.
- Engaging Guatemalan government institutions to fight corruption; increase openness and transparency; support the rule of law, human rights, and civil society; and strengthen the effectiveness of government institutions to improve Guatemalan confidence in government agencies.
- Addressing root causes of irregular migration, creating hope for Guatemalans at home by boosting broad-based economic opportunity, increasing equal access to basic services, and engaging the government and the private sector to increase investment in communities and reduce poverty.
- Combatting transnational criminal organizations and reducing violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, to increase citizen security in Guatemala and the region.
- Improving economic security and equality for Guatemalans and export and investment opportunities for U.S. firms.
Corruption, inequality, and high levels of violence and insecurity in Guatemala contribute to high levels of poverty, elevated crime rates, and some of the lowest social development indicators in Latin America. Forty-three percent of Guatemala’s population identifies as indigenous, and indigenous groups and individuals still suffer the historic and continued effects of institutionalized social exclusion. In addition, Guatemala has the youngest population in Latin America (median age of 22). Almost half of the population is under age 19 and, as a group in its vast majority, has struggled to obtain sufficient education, training, and job opportunities.
This context has been driving irregular migration to the United States. Most migrants are young and indigenous people seeking a steady income. Guatemalans report lack of economic opportunity as the main driver behind their intention to migrate, with insecurity and family separation as secondary reasons.
Guatemala faces formidable challenges: weak governance, endemic corruption, pervasive poverty, food insecurity, severe violence, citizen insecurity, shrinking space for civil society, lack of respect for human rights, inequitable access to economic opportunities and social services, and the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. These challenges drive irregular migration as well as forced displacement and contribute to the expansion of transnational criminal organizations (TCOs).
U.S. Migration Policy Towards Guatemala and the Region
The U.S. Strategy to Address the Root Causes of Migration and the U.S. Collaborative Migration Management Strategy are the principal frameworks guiding U.S. diplomatic efforts and foreign assistance in Guatemala and across Central America. These strategies support Guatemala in addressing the challenges the country faces as both a source of northward migration and transit country for migrants from the region and the world.
The Root Causes Strategy focuses on a coordinated, place-based approach to improve the underlying causes that push Central Americans, including many Guatemalans, to migrate. This strategy lays out a framework to use the policy, resources, and diplomacy of the United States, and to leverage the expertise and resources of a broad group of public and private stakeholders, to build hope for citizens in Guatemala that the life they desire can be found at home. The strategy is organized under five pillars:
- Pillar I: Addressing economic insecurity and inequality;
- Pillar II: Combating corruption, strengthening democratic governance, and advancing the rule of law;
- Pillar III: Promoting respect for human rights, labor rights, and a free press;
- Pillar IV: Countering and preventing violence, extortion, and other crimes perpetrated by criminal gangs, trafficking networks, and other organized criminal organizations; and
- Pillar V: Combating sexual, gender-based, and domestic violence.
The Collaborative Migration Management Strategy (CMMS) works together with the Root Causes Strategy and is the first U.S. whole-of-government effort focused on reducing irregular migration to the U.S. border by promoting safe, orderly, and humane migration; improving access to protection for those fleeing persecution and torture; and strengthening migration cooperation and responsibility sharing throughout North and Central America. The CMMS aims to enhance international protection and protection within Guatemala, promote temporary labor programs, strengthen lawful pathways for those who choose to migrate or are forcibly displaced from their homes in North and Central America, foster humane border management practices, and reduce irregular migration.
The CMMS includes eight distinct lines of action to strengthen collaborative migration management across North and Central America, including Guatemala:
- Stabilize populations with acute needs;
- Expand access to international protection;
- Expand access to protection in countries of origin;
- Expand third country labor migration programs with worker protections;
- Assist and reintegrate returned persons;
- Foster secure and humane management of borders;
- Strengthen regional public messaging on migration; and
- Expand access to lawful pathways for protection and opportunity in the United States.
U.S. Assistance to Guatemala
The U.S. government works in partnership with the Government of Guatemala, the private sector, civil society, international partners, and communities to create and connect Guatemalans to opportunities that enable them to achieve prosperous, secure, and dignified lives at home. This work spans multiple U.S. government agencies and promotes citizen security and justice, anti-corruption and governance, human rights and labor rights, economic growth, health and nutrition, education, food security and humanitarian assistance, agriculture, and the environment.
The U.S. government also continues to be the primary international partner supporting the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance in developing and implementing Guatemala’s national COVID-19 vaccine deployment plan. In addition to the donation of 4.5 million COVID vaccines, the U.S. government has provided $63.2 million in COVID supplemental resources, including funding for ventilators, oxygen concentrators, and other supplies, as well as clinical training to treat COVID-19.
Bilateral, regional, and humanitarian assistance through the Department of State and USAID averaged $228.6 million per year (FY 2019-2020). Additionally, in FY 2021, USAID provided $16.1 million in international disaster assistance for emergency food and relief and recovery efforts in response to the Eta and Iota storms of November 2020 that impacted over 2.4 million Guatemalans. In FY 2021, the Department and USAID provided an additional $72.5 million in humanitarian assistance to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, improve livelihoods, and support urgent humanitarian and protection needs of refugees, asylum seekers, and other vulnerable populations.
Bilateral Economic Relations
The pandemic hit Guatemala at a time of macroeconomic stability and firming growth. With swift fiscal stimulus and government support to vulnerable populations, real GDP contracted by 1.5 percent in 2020 and the country is on track for 4.5 percent projected growth in 2021, in line with the regional average. The United States is Guatemala’s largest trading partner, and total (two-way) goods trade between the two countries was $9.7 billion during 2020. U.S. goods exports to Guatemala in 2020 totaled $5.8 billion, while goods imports totaled $3.8 billion, making the U.S. goods trade surplus with Guatemala just under $2 billion in 2020. The two countries are parties to the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which Guatemala ratified in 2006. CAFTA-DR has facilitated trade and investment as well as further regional integration by eliminating tariffs, opening markets, reducing barriers to services, and promoting transparency. CAFTA-DR contains a chapter on investment similar to a bilateral investment treaty with the United States. U.S. exports to Guatemala include oil, agricultural products, articles donated for relief and low-value shipments, and machinery. U.S. imports from Guatemala include agricultural products, apparel, gold, and silver.
Guatemala’s Membership in International Organizations
Guatemala and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, Organization of American States, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.
Principal U.S. embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.
Guatemala maintains an embassy in the United States at 2220 R Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008 (tel. 202-745-4952) and 25 consulates in cities throughout the United States.
More information about Guatemala is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:
History of U.S. Relations With Guatemala
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Narcotics Control Reports
Investment Climate Statements