Princeton University

International Strategy And Foreign Policy Of Guatemala

Introduction

The Republic of Guatemala is a Central American state situated between Mexico and Belize. Due to its geographical location, the country has had some military and economic ties with the United States. The essay will examine the details of their foreign policy and how the United States influenced these foreign policies.

International foreign policy in Guatemala through US foreign policy objectives

The United States firmly believes in the institution of peace. US presidents may claim that they are doing it for the sake of democracy and the rule of law; however, there is an underlying and deeper meaning behind this foreign objective. For any economy to prosper, a country must have peace. Consequently, the US strives to foster peace in many countries in order to facilitate economic growth thus economic gain from those countries. The world has adopted a capitalist system over the past few decades. As a result, countries with the most superior capitalist system are also the ones that excel in the global economy. In addition, countries with poor capitalist systems may impede the rate of economic acceleration in developed countries. In most cases, these countries have poor political and civil control. Therefore, if a country is not safe for capital investment, then the United States cannot conduct business with it and this may affect the US in the end. In relation to this argument, the US has been particularly interested in fostering peace in Guatemala because they realize that the civil strife in the country is impeding capitalism. The US has been part of the peace keeping mission formed by the UN and has also entered into a number of agreements geared towards fostering peace with Guatemala. All these agreements have one major objective in mind; to make Guatemala safe for business and investment by the US. (Cullather, 1999)

Another ideological theme governs US foreign policies in Guatemala. In most countries of the world, the US disfavors countries that encourage two types of political ideologies

  • Fascism
  • Socialism

In this context, the US firmly believes that the latter two ideologies come in the way of capitalist development. The US encourages many global economies to adopt political system that favor global capitalism. By extension, countries need not adopt systems that favor labor unions or economies run through subsidies. The US frowns upon welfare system and strongly encourages independent democratic economies. This foreign policy objective can be seen in Guatemala. Guatemala does not have an independent foreign policy because of influences from the US. The former country belongs to regional associations as a result of some initiatives from the US. In the agreements governing these regional groups, Guatemala is required to enhance economic growth through sound democratic and political structures. Most of these political structures are largely supported by the United States government. Between 1954 and 1985, Guatemala has had a large number of military dictatorships. The United States along with other countries of the world intervened in this region in order to institute the rule of law. Eventually, Guatemala obliged to these international pressures and now have a democratic political system. (Gleijeses, 2001)

Another aspect of US foreign policy objectives that can be seen in Guatemala is the issue of world supremacy; this is a strategic objective. Some experts assert that the US will always support governments that enhance US supremacy in the world. It would like to dominate the international corporate landscape. However, there are countries such as the United Kingdom, China and others that threaten the US’s position. As a result, the US ends up backing up countries that can support its position in the global economy. This is the reason why the government intervened militarily in Guatemala during the year 1954.

How Guatemala uses its instruments of foreign policy to influence the international community

Guatemala seeks to protect its internal polices in international relations. This was seen during the 1981 dispute between the latter country and Belize. At that time, Belize gained independence form the United Kingdom and Guatemala claimed that part of the Belizean Republic was in fact Guatemalan land. This marked an intense border conflict between the countries and even affected their international relationship with the United Kingdom. Eight years after Belize’s independence, Guatemala still insisted on sponsoring it to the international Olympics. However, after intense consultation, Guatemala finally acknowledged Belize two years after the ’89 Olympics. It should be noted that the border dispute was never truly resolved until the year 1996 when the country became a signatory of an international agreement that clarified maritime arrangements. The Organization of American States intervened in the situation in order to clarify the borders. However, Guatemala was undergoing political challenges within it borders and this halted the meetings, although negotiations are still ongoing. After an analysis of the situation between Belize and Guatemala, one can assert that the country’s national interests have affected the way Guatemala tackles her regional neighbors. (Gleijeses, 2001)

How the three international polices (regional, global and national) apply to Guatemala

Regional international policies are particularly important to Guatemala. The country belongs to a large number of regional economic forums such as Council of Central American Ministers of Trade. The latter group is concerned with economic development within the region. Additionally, the country forms trading partnerships with countries in the region. For instance, it is a signatory of the  Trade and Investment Framework Agreement. The two partners involved in this agreement are the US and Guatemala. Besides these, Guatemala also created the Central American Parliament which was instituted through the country’s brainchild. Another economic agreement governing Guatemala allows free trade between members of the region such as Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador.

Environmental issues also affect Gutaemala’s international policies. For instance, in the year 1994, the country signed an agreement with the United States to promote environmental sustainability. The agreement was called Conjunto Centroamerica-USA and some of the issues that it tackles include;

  • Strengthening environmental compliance among signatories
  • Conserving biodiversity
  • Harmonizing environmental standards in the region
  • Improving energy efficiency
  • Promoting clean energy use

By obliging to international environment agreements, Guatemala is improving its image in the public eye. (Immerman, 2007)

Guatemala is a signatory on the United Nations. This international organization has played a large role in solving the border dispute between the two neighboring states. The UN formed an organization known as the friends of Guatemala. Their mission was to foster peace between the two adversaries. Some of the countries that joined this UN led effort include; Norway, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico and Spain.

How US economic assistance and economic trade relate to Guatemala

United States’ interest in Guatemala are largely shaped by the nature of human rights, military and civil conflicts within the region. The US has assisted Guatemala in the past in order to support peace and democracy within the Republic. It is also interested in strengthening the rule of laws and protection of human rights within this country. The United States displayed this objective by their support for the elimination of impunity within Guatemala. Additionally, the US is interested in accessing some economic benefits from Guatemala while at the same time offering the same to the latter country. These economic benefits must also extend to other members of the Central American region. (Soto, 1998)

Corruption, smuggling of narcotics and aliens, trans-border crime and money are just some of the problems plaguing Guatemala. The US has provided Guatemala with economic assistance on condition that they make a commitment to stamp out the latter mentioned practices. Additionally, the US participated in conflict resolution between Belize and Guatemala with regard to their border conflict. This is part of their larger objective; to foster regional integration among the American States. Such ideas are seen in US member participation in the regions peace solving unit. In 1996, the US took part in a peace accord that has been the foundation for changes in Guatemala’s social, political and economic sectors. This is a very important initiative in Guatemala because the country has one of the highest crime rates in the region. Many US citizens (along with other foreign nationals) die in that country annually. Consequently, it is in US’s best interest if they contribute towards stabilization of that country as there are still so many US citizens visiting Guatemala.

The US has donated close to five hundred million US dollars to Guatemala over the past ten years. These were sponsorships given towards the institution of peace within the latter country. The United States realizes that in order to foster economic partnership with Guatemala, there should be a rapid reduction in social conflicts and problems there. The US governmement believes that these latter issues impede Guatemala’s potential as it has the potential to become the most successful economy in the Central American region. By extension, this economic success could benefit some of its trading partners (including the US). (Immerman, 2007)

The United States normally provides economic assistance through USaid. The latter group (or the US) are governed by three major objectives;

  • Instituting transparent governance in Guatemala
  • Diversifying and expanding economies in Guatemala
  • Improving healthcare in Guatemala

The United States is committed towards transparency in the Guatemalan government by protecting citizen’s rights in the administration of justice. Transparency can be instituted supporting accountability within governments. This implies that impunity should be minimized in the Republic. US’s commitment to Guatemala’s economic growth can be divided into three sections. The first one among this is the institution of sound economic policies, regulation and laws that foster investment and trade. Additionally, economic prosperity may be achieved by allowing private sector development. It is also necessary to ensure economic prosperity by passing laws that facilitate competition, the US  government also promotes institution of accessible financial markets in Guatemala.

The US government firmly supports passing laws that regulate better health and education among the Guatemalan people. In this case, the US has supported improvement of education and health investments in Guatemala. It has also fostered reproductive and health services in rural areas.

The US Guatemalan relationships were strongly affected in the year 1990. At that time, members of the Guatemalan armed forces murdered a US citizen. Following this event the US decided to suspend assistance in Guatemala. The US was offering military assistance at that time but felt that it was in the two country’s best interests to solve the issue. There were a number of army men who were involved in the murder. Most of them were captured and tried, thereafter they were sentenced to prison life. However, three years after the murder, one of the major perpetrators escaped from prison, this created some more tension between the United States, and Guatemala. The US felt that it was imperative to capture this criminal mastermind in order to pacify the relationship between the two countries. (Schlesinger and Kinzer, 2002)

How the foreign policy of Guatemala affects the US

Foreign policy in Guatemala is largely economical. The US is particularly interested in Guatemala for economic reasons. Consequently, conflicts within the country can play a large role in determining whether or not the US agrees with issues occurring in that region. When Guatemala agreed to join international associations such as the Organization of American States, it was in the US’s best interests because some of the policies that restrict imports and foreign trade were diluted.

Conclusion

Foreign policy in Guatemala is largely influenced by a number of themes. First of all, the country seeks to protect its national interests as was seen in the Belize-Guatemala conflict. Additionally, the country seeks to foster economic prosperity by joining regional and international partnerships. The US has been involved in peace keeping missions within Guatemala so as to foster an environment of trade and  partnership. Additionally, the US is also interested in Guatemala in order to eradicate anti-capitalist political ideologies.

Reference:

Cullather, N. (1999): The CIA’s Classified Account of Operations in Guatemala, Stanford University Press

Immerman, R. (2007): The Foreign Policy of Intervention; University of Texas Press.

Soto, J. (1998): The Case of Guatemala; Westview Press

Schlesinger, S. and Kinzer, S. (2002): The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala; Doubleday & Co. Publishers

Gleijeses, P. (2001): The Guatemalan Revolution and the United States, 1944-1954. NJ: Princeton University Press

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