VRBC has sent people on mission trips with Buckner to orphanages in Guatemala, and we are currently praying about a strategic, multi-year partnership there. Please join us in prayer, and read the information below to learn more about Guatemala.
Mexico's southern neighbor, a land of mountains, volcanoes and lakes, 108,890 sq. km. (slightly smaller than Tennessee)
Population 13,550,440 (July 2010 est.)
60% Spanish-speaking Latinos, 40% Amerindian languages, including Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna, and Xinca
Religious beliefs: Roman Catholic, Protestant, indigenous Mayan beliefs
The Mayan civilization flourished in Guatemala and surrounding regions during the first millennium A.D. After almost three centuries as a Spanish colony, Guatemala won its independence in 1821. During the second half of the 20th century, it experienced a variety of military and civilian governments, as well as a 36-year guerrilla war. In 1996, the government signed a peace agreement formally ending the conflict, which had left more than 100,000 people dead and had created, by some estimates, some 1 million refugees.
Guatemala is the most populous of the Central American countries with a GDP per capita roughly one-half that of the average for Latin America and the Caribbean. The agricultural sector accounts for nearly 15% of GDP and half of the labor force; key agricultural exports include coffee, sugar, and bananas. The 1996 peace accords, which ended 36 years of civil war, removed a major obstacle to foreign investment, and since then Guatemala has pursued important reforms and macroeconomic stabilization. The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) entered into force in July 2006 spurring increased investment and diversification of exports, with the largest increases in ethanol and non-traditional agricultural exports. While CAFTA has helped improve the investment climate, concerns over security, the lack of skilled workers and poor infrastructure continue to hamper foreign direct investment. The distribution of income remains highly unequal with the richest decile comprising over 40% of Guatemala's overall consumption. More than half of the population is below the national poverty line and 15% lives in extreme poverty. Poverty among indigenous groups, which make up 38% of the population, averages 76% and extreme poverty rises to 28%. 43% of children under five are chronically malnourished, one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. President COLOM entered into office with the promise to increase education, healthcare, and rural development, and in April 2008 he inaugurated a conditional cash transfer program, modeled after programs in Brazil and Mexico, that provide financial incentives for poor families to keep their children in school and get regular health check-ups. Given Guatemala's large expatriate community in the United States, it is the top remittance recipient in Central America, with inflows serving as a primary source of foreign income equivalent to nearly two-thirds of exports. The economy contracted in 2009 as export demand from US and other Central American markets fell and foreign investment slowed amid the global recession. The economy will likely recover gradually in 2010 and return to more normal growth rates by 2012.