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An officer cadet from Guatemala's military academy, Escuela Politécnica. In the rear, a platoon of Military Police (Policía Militar Ambulante) from Guardia de Honor garrison.
Kaibil unit patrolling in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.



Guatemala is a signatory to the Rio Pact and was a member of the Central American Defense Council (CONDECA). The President of the Republic is commander in chief. The Minister of Defense is responsible for policy. Day-to-day operations are the responsibility of the military chief of staff and the national defense staff.

An agreement signed in September 1996, which is one of the substantive peace accords, mandated that the mission of the armed forces change to focus exclusively on external threats.[1] However, Presidents Álvaro Arzú and his successors Alfonso Portillo, Oscar Berger and Álvaro Colom, have used a constitutional clause to order the army on a temporary basis to support the police in response to a nationwide wave of violent crime.

The peace accords call for a one-third reduction in the army's authorized strength and budget — achieved in 2004 — and for a constitutional amendment to permit the appointment of a civilian minister of defense. A constitutional amendment to this end was defeated as part of a May 1999 plebiscite, but discussions between the executive and legislative branches continue on how to achieve this objective.

In 2004 the army has gone beyond its accord-mandated target, and has implemented troop reductions from an estimated 28,000 to 15,500 troops,[2] including subordinate air force (1,000) and navy (1,000) elements. It is equipped with armaments and material from the United States, Israel, Taiwan, Argentina, Spain, and France. As part of the army downsizing, the operational structure of 19 military zones and three strategic brigades are being recast as several military zones are eliminated and their area of operations absorbed by others. The air force operates three air bases; the navy has two port bases.[3]


Individual equipment

Light tanks

M-41A3 Walker Bulldog. 23.5 tons, 76 mm cannon, one 7.62 mm (coaxial) machine gun, one 12.7 mm (AA) heavy machine gun, armour of 31.75 mm maximum. 10 tanks in service.

Armored Vehicles

  • RBY MK 1. Purchashed from Israel in 1975. Light armoured reconnaissance vehicle. 10 to 25 vehicles in service.
  • Armadillo. National production. 4x4 APC. Similar to LAV-150 Commando. 50 to 70 vehicles in service.
  • M-113. Tracked APC. 10 Vehicles in service.


Special Forces

The Guatemalan army has a special forces unit (specializing in anti-insurgent jungle warfare) known as the Kaibiles.

Military branches

Military manpower

Military age: 18 years of age

Males aged 15 to 49: 3,186,894 (2002 est.)

Males fit for military service aged 15 to 49: 2,080,504 (2002 est.)

Males reaching military age annually: 140,358 (2002 est.)

Military expenditures

Total: USD $120 million (FY99)

As a percent of GDP: 0.6% (FY99)


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Cancelarán 12 mil 109 plazas en el Ejército". Prensa Libre. April 2, 2004.  
  3. ^ "Background Note: Guatemala". Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, US Department of State. february 2009.  

Raul Sohr. Centroamérica en guerra. Alianza Editorial. México. 1988.

Christopher F. Foss. Jane's tank and combat vehicles recognition guide. Harper Collins Publishers. UK. 2000.



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