In brief

In the 20th century, Guatemala was shocked by repeated coups d’état and military dictatorships. The most serious was the coup of 1954, supported by the CIA, against the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán which intended to carry out an agrarian reform whose audacity alarmed the landowners. A bloody civil war ensued, supported by the United States, which caused about 180,000 deaths and 45,000 forced disappearances, especially among the indigenous population of Mayan origin, university students and supporters of social movements. It was not until 1996 that peace agreements were signed between the government and democratic organizations.

Such a troubled history has had extremely negative repercussions for the economic and civil development of society, whose strong inequality continues to condemn very large sections of the population to social exclusion, in particular that of indigenous communities. In September 2019, the CICIG (international Commission against impunity in Guatemala) was officially dismissed, which has always been widely opposed by national political forces; the commission, established by the United Nations in 2006, had the objective of investigating and fighting crime and corruption in the Latin American state. The act was warmly desired by the outgoing President Morales, in the last months of his mandate before the succession of Giammattei (elected in August 2019 but in office since 2020) claiming that the organ had become a mere instrument of persecution against the national ruling class; the head of government, indeed, decided not to renew the mandate to the Commission, although more than 70% of the population is in favor of the activities carried out by the CICIG.

The problems that the future government will face in addition to rampant corruption are drug trafficking, poverty, widespread undernutrition and environmental degradation.

The economic structure is mainly linked to the primary sector (where over 45% of the active population is employed), dominated by agriculture. The most profitable lands are intended for planting crops such as coffee, bananas and sugar cane, controlled by foreign companies. The distribution of income remains highly unequal and 20% of the population holds over 51% of the nation’s total consumption; 23% of the population lives in conditions of extreme poverty. Poverty among indigenous groups, which make up more than 40% of the population, is on average 79%, of which 40% live in conditions of extreme poverty. 12.6% of children under five years of age are chronically malnourished; in fact the state holds one of the highest malnutrition rates in the area. [source CIA World Factbook, 2018]

Mani Tese’s action

Mani Tese, for more than 10 years, has supported social movements and local organizations that deal with human rights, food sovereignty and child protection. This commitment is constantly carried out in synergy with local partners not only in the capital but also in other departments – those of Quiché and Chiquimula, mainly.

Among the organizations involved and that have collaborated and still collaborate with Mani Tese, it is worth mentioning the Asociación Santiago de Jocotàn; in the past, CONAVIGUA (Coordinadora Nacional de Viudas de Guatemala), CONIC (Coordinadora Nacional Indígena y Campesina) and MOJOCA (Movimiento de Jóvenes de la Calle) were also supported.

country details

127 Ranking [UNDP, 2017]
28/1000 [younger than 5 years old. UNICEF, 2018] 23/1000 [younger than 1 year old. UNICEF, 2018]
0.14‰ [UNAIDS, 2018]
94% [WHO, 2018]


My name is Giulia Donnici, and it all started here. I was still a university student when, in 2006, I arrived in Mani Tese as an intern. It was my first experience in international cooperation and I immediately thought it was the most beautiful and interesting job in the world. Thanks to the internship, I got close and passionate to the topic of corporate social […]