After democratically-elected Jacobo Arbenz was overthrown in a military coup sponsored by the United States of America, Guatemala suffered over 30 years of civil war that lead to an estimated 200,000 civilian deaths. By 1954, Guatemala's was already the second successful regime-change lead by the CIA, instigated by the threat of expropriation of land by local government. A U.S. backed militia that was considered the most sophisticated and well-trained force in the region, was able to subsequently keep Guatemala's military dictatorship in power. Finally, due to UN interaction, a peace accord was signed in 1996 and Guatemala has benefited from democratic elections including her most recent in 2003. 

In 2005 Guatemala's congress under president Óscar Berger ratified the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), despite major protests. With the effects of Hurricane Stan in October 2005, as well as an agricultural sector that demands half of Guatemala's labor force, the requirements and stipulations of CAFTA may be hard for Guatemala to abide by. It is increasingly important for those of us in the Global North to understand how we, as consumers, can support development efforts abroad. The ability to advance some of Guatemala's most impoverished communities by Fair Trade and women's cooperatives is most easily understood when one is actually able to see it in motion. See how "Free Trade" negatively impacts the country, both socially and environmentally, while Fair Trade clearly empowers it. 



Related issues: