A Look at How the Guatemalan Government Works
The structure of the Guatemalan government reflects the fact that La República de Guatemala (the Republic of Guatemala) is a sovereign and independent nation.
Guatemala’s name comes from the nahuatl Quauhtlemallan which means “place of many trees.” It is in Central America and borders Belize to the west, Mexico to the northeast, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast.
Read this article to learn about how the Guatemalan government works.
Guatemala’s Government Structure
How does the Guatemalan government work? Guatemala’s government is governed by la Constitución Política de la República de Guatemala (the Political Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala). I’ll refer to it as the Guatemalan constitution from now on. It’s the supreme law of the country.
The Guatemalan constitution establishes that the Guatemalan government is Republicano, Democrático y Representativo (Republican, Democratic and Representative), which means that the government is divided into three poderes del estado (state branches).
1. Executive Branch (Organismo Ejecutivo)
In Guatemala, the executive branch includes the president, vice president, ministers, governors, and mayors of the departments of Guatemala. The function of this branch is to formulate, execute, and administrate government policies.
On January 14, 2020, Alejandro Giammattei began his presidency alongside Vice President Guillermo Castillo. Each presidential term lasts four years. The president and VP cannot be reelected. That rule applies to other positions like ministers, magistrates, and representatives.
Giammatei and Castillo are the principal representatives of el poder ejecutivo in Guatemala.
2. Legislative Branch (Poder Legislativo)
The Guatemalan legislative branch consists of 160 diputados (representatives). The current diputados are in office from 2020 to 2024, and they were elected in the 2019 elections.
El Congreso de la República de Guatemala (Congress of the Republic of Guatemala) is in charge of creating and promoting laws to promote the development and growth of Guatemala and the wellness of its inhabitants. They approve the annual budget of several institutions.
The Congress of Guatemala changes its president and directors board annually. In 2021, the president of the Congress is Alan García. Sofía Hernández, Luis Alfonzo Rosales, and Armando Damián Castillo are first, second, and third vice presidents, respectively.
3. Judicial Branch (Poder Judicial)
This branch includes the Supreme Court of Justice, the Court of Appeals, courts of first instance, and lower courts. The judicial branch in Guatemala has the power to judge and promote the execution of justice.
The judicial branch is represented by 13 magistrates who are in office for one year. The current chief justice of the Supreme Court is Silvida Patricia Valdés Quezada.
Several institutions that work hand-in-hand with the courts, including:
- el Ministerio Público – Public Ministry
- la Procuraduría General de la Nación – Office of the Attorney General of the Nation
- la Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos – Human Rights Ombudsman
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Guatemalan Voting Rights
Voting in Guatemala is a right and a duty for every Guatemalan citizen. The rules and regulations of this right are detailed in la Ley Electoral y de Partidos Políticos (Electoral and Political Party Laws).
In Guatemala, an adult citizen is 18 years or older. Guatemalans have rights and obligations, such as:
- Respect and defend the Political Constitution of the Republic
- Register in the citizen’s registry and obtain a personal identification document
- Exercise the right to vote
- Run for public office
- Ensure the freedom and effectiveness of the vote and the voting process
- Defend the principle of alternation and non-reelection
- Carry out the electoral functions for which they were appointed
Political Parties and Elections
Elections in Guatemala take place every four years. The Tribunal Supremo Electoral (Supreme Electoral Tribunal) is the institution in charge of assuring that every Guatemalan can exercise their right to vote.
Guatemala has at least 15 political parties currently. VAMOS is the current partido oficial (official political party), but here are some of the popular and recognized ones:
|Let’s go for a different Guatemala||Vamos por una Guatemala diferente- VAMOS|
|Movement for the freedom of the people||Movimiento para la liberación de los pueblos – MLP|
|National Convergence Front||Frente de convergencia nacional – FCN|
|National Unity for Hope||Unidad nacional por la esperanza – UNE|
|Seed Movement||Movimiento semilla – Semilla|
|Vision with value||Visión con valores – VIVA|
Beside the many political parties, the political ideologies in Guatemala include four major groups:
The political organizations with this ideology defend social equality and egalitarianism. They often oppose established social hierarchies and seek equality.
Those who promote center-left or moderate left politics believe in working within the established social and government systems to improve social justice. This requires individual and social responsibility.
The political organizations with this ideology support social orders and hierarchies and view them as inevitable, normal, and desirable. From this point of view, inequality is normal as a result of social differences and economic competition.
Also known as moderate-right politics, this ideology leans to the right in the political spectrum but is closer to the center. This ideology supports the economy, development, and private property, as well as human rights.
See also: A Brief History of Guatemala’s 36-Year-Long Civil War
Taxes are a compulsory contribution to state revenue that comes from the workers’ income and business profit or are added to the cost of goods, services, and transactions.
Working Guatemala citizens have the obligation to pay los impuestos (taxes).
The institution in charge of collecting taxes for the Guatemalan government is la Superintendencia de Administración Tributaria- SAT (Superintendency of Tax Administration).
Here’s a list of taxes Guatemalans pay:
|cement distribution tax||el impuesto a la distribución de cemento|
|direct taxes||los impuestos directos|
|great contributor regime tax||el impuesto del régimen del gran contribuyente|
|income tax||el Impuesto Sobre la Renta- ISR|
|indirect taxes||los impuestos indirectos|
|Inheritance, legacy and donation tax||impuesto sobre herencias, legados y donaciones|
|road tax||el impuesto sobre circulación de vehículos terrestres, marítimos y aéreos|
|small taxpayer regime tax||el impuesto del régimen del pequeño contribuyente|
|single tax on the property||el Impuesto Único sobre Inmuebles- IUSI|
|solidarity tax||el impuesto de solidaridad|
|tax on the distribution of crude oil and petroleum-derived fuel||el impuesto a la distribución de petróleo crudo y combustibles derivados del petróleo|
|Value Added Tax- VAT||el Impuesto al Valor Agregado- IVA|
Check out the official SAT website to learn more about Guatemalan taxes
Learn about Guatemala In Spanish!
As a Guatemalan, I can tell you how beautiful and amazing my country is. It is full of life and colors. Its natural beauty is breathtaking, and even though we still have a long way to go in regard to political and corruption issues, Guatemala is a wonderful place to visit.
Knowing Spanish when you travel here removes the language barrier and promotes better communication. It empowers you to have a meaningful, in-depth experience of Guatemalan culture and people. Also, learning Spanish also helps your cognition and decision-making abilities!
Sign up for a free trial class at Homeschool Spanish Academy to prepare for your trip to Guatemala. And since all of our teachers live in Guatemala, you can ask them more about the country’s government, society, and traditions!
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