Guatemala - Exposing the Issues

Melissa Uehling

The issues present in Guatemala all too often go unnoticed by the world. The vast economic issues have been significantly hindering the development of Guatemala, an issue that could be helped with the aid of foreign countries. Additionally, many of the indigenous people in Guatemala are subjected to harsh and unfair violations of human rights. Despite the atrocities, their voices remain unheard. Furthermore, many of the people of Guatemala, primarily in rural settings, are faced with very poor and unfair living conditions. With international help, these situations could be significantly improved.

Economic Problems

Economic problems have been plaguing Guatemala for years, and the problems have only been increasing. Over half of the labour force is involved in the difficult agriculture industry, with many involved in actual farm labour and selling products informally at markets (Encyclopedia of the Nations). However, with the large presence of subsistence agriculture, the industry as a whole results in low productivity, low wages, and low quality of life (Encyclopedia of the Nations).

The following video focuses on the country's low purchasing power and struggling economy due to unemployment relating to the agriculture and market industries.

As demonstrated in the video, the country is in need of help. Due to the declining economy and low amount of hope for the nation's economic future, foreign investment is not high (Foreign Investment in Guatemala). Additionally, Guatemala has struggled with foreign debt that cannot be repaid (Foreign Investment in Guatemala). Guatemala is in need of assistance from international donors. Together, with the help of other nations, Guatemala can improve its infrastructure to create a larger manufacturing industry with more highly skilled jobs, as opposed to the current economy in which agriculture is 23% of the GDP (Encyclopedia of the Nations). The GDP of Guatemala is limited to roughly a 3rd of the GDP's of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile (Encyclopedia of the Nations). If nations around the world would invest more into Guatemala, the economy would strengthen greatly, reducing unemployment and raising the overall quality of life for citizens by focusing on expanding the manufacturing sector. With foreign investment into Guatemala's economy, Guatemala can become a stronger country with better foreign ties. The long-term benefits include increased foreign trade and security between Guatemala and its allied nations. With international help, Guatemala's current economy could grow into a thriving, successful infrastructure.

Indigenous Human Rights Violations

The indigenous people of Guatemala represent a large portion of the population, with numbers estimated at up to 51% of Guatemala's total population (Minority Rights Group International : Guatemala : Maya). While these indigenous people, descendants of the Mayans, are large in numbers, they are still faced with extreme discrimination and violations of human rights.

In recent years, the leaders of many indigenous rights activist groups have been abducted or killed, with little to no examination of their deaths and no justice brought to them - and this is only the beginning of the atrocities endured by the Mayans (DeLuca). In Guatemala, while universal suffrage is present, the government has taken several measures to ensure it is difficult for the Mayans to vote (Minority Rights Group International : Guatemala : Maya). The government arranged for voter registration to take place during harvest season, a time in which the primarily agriculturally employed Mayans cannot afford to leave their farms (Minority Rights Group International : Guatemala : Maya). Additionally, the government ensures transportation from the areas of mainly Mayan population to the locations of voter registration is difficult to obtain (Minority Rights Group International : Guatemala : Maya). The discrimination continues beyond preventative voting measures. The indigenous people have limited access to the justice system, face discrimination by police, and are excluded from national decision making as a whole (DeLuca).

The United Nations should not stand for such blatant displays of human rights abuse. UN representatives should take peaceful action to ensure that the indigenous people receive fair treatment. The justice system should not discriminate against the indigenous people. They should receive fair trials and fair investigations into the crimes committed against them. Additionally, the police should not target the indigenous people and treat them unfairly. The Mayans should have access to voting to make a truly equal nation in which all the voices are heard. The UN should intervene to ensure Guatemala's government will enact laws to ensure the equal treatment of the indigenous population.

Marginalization of Rural Citizens

In Guatemala, rural citizens are forced into a life with many disadvantages. Limited job opportunities and lack of available education is just the beginning of the problems faced by these citizens. The following video outlines the importance of better jobs and opportunities for rural citizens.

As shown in the video, conditions in rural areas are inadequate. The limited amount of jobs prevent citizens in these areas from living comfortable lives with adequate pay (Guatemala). Furthermore, the public education system is very inferior. Education is not mandatory in Guatemala, and the poor school systems do not promote the value of education (Guatemala). 30% of Guatemala's population is illiterate, preventing many citizens from seeking any jobs with higher skill levels (Guatemala). Along with the adverse education system, living conditions are poor. Only an estimated 50% of all of Guatemala's rural areas have access to clean water, and health care access is very limited (Encyclopedia of the Nations). 80% of Guatemala's physicians are in urban areas, leaving a very limited number of doctors to cater to the extensive rural population (Guatemala).

These marginalized citizens of Guatemala need international help to ensure the improvement of their condition. International volunteers to provide rural areas with health care and education could vastly improve the lives of the rural citizens. The United Nations should recognize the poor conditions of Guatemala and realize a bit of help could make a significant difference. Focusing on increased health care access and opportunities for basic education would give these citizens the opportunity to pursue a longer, more successful life.

Overall, Guatemala is a country with a lot of potential. However, it is currently hindered by economic and social issues. The dominating yet inefficient agricultural system and weak economy, coupled with the numerous human rights violations and marginalization in rural settings creates a nation unable to sustain sturdy infrastructure and high quality of life. International help to rebuild the economy and establish a larger manufacturing sector can steer the nation towards prosperity. Additionally, intervention to deal with the poor treatment of indigenous people can aid in eliminating prejudices and inequality. Furthermore, volunteers to aid in the educational and medical sectors of rural regions would strengthen the future of the nation as a whole. With the aid of the United Nations, Guatemala can work towards a more promising future.

Works Cited

DeLuca, Danielle. "Human Rights Violations in Guatemala: Hearing Indigenous Voices | Cultural Survival." Cultural Survival. Culturalsurvival.org, n.d. Web. 04 June 2014. <http://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/human-rights-violations-guatemala-hearing-indigenous-voices>.

"Encyclopedia of the Nations." Guatemala. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 June 2014. <http://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/economies/Americas/Guatemala.html>.

"Foreign Investment in Guatemala." Santander Trade. Santandertrade,com, n.d. Web. 03 June 2014. <https://en.santandertrade.com/establish-overseas/guatemala/investing>.

"Guatemala." Center for Economic and Social Rights : Guatemala. Cesr.org, n.d. Web. 04 June 2014. <http://cesr.org/article.php?list=type&type=33>.

"Minority Rights Group International : Guatemala : Maya." World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples. N.p., July 2013. Web. 04 June 2014. <http://www.minorityrights.org/2555/guatemala/maya.html>.

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