Friday, July 30, 2010

Tourism Crisis in Guatemala

Tourism Crisis in Guatemala
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Rampant criminality is the main cause of the decline but a lack of "clear tourism development policies from the government" is also blamed.
Marco Antonio Barahona writing for comments that, "from any angle, tourism is one of the sectors that has been most hit by the various crises that have affected Guatemalans since 2008".

The steady increase in criminal violence, linked to both street crime and drug trafficking organizations, has led to alerts abroad and many governments are warning their citizens of the danger of travelling in Guatemala. It is common for large international tour operators to cancel reservations, excluding the country from their regular itineraries.

In addition to the decline in the number of tourists, tour operators and hotels have seen an increase in the cost of security by 10% and 12% respectively.

Guatemala: New Office for Promotion and Investment

Tuesday, July 27, 2010
The couuntry and its products will be promoted abroad through an agency called 'Guatemala Trade and Invest' (GTI).
The new agency replaces the "Invest in Guatemala" office.

Erick Coyoy, minister for the economy, told Jessi Gramajo writing for Sigloxxi that, "the new agency will not only seek to attract investment, it will also aim to encourage trade".

tax reform

Thursday, July 29, 2010
The government will not insist on the approval of tax reform this year due to the current fiscal defecit.
Édgar Balselles, recently appointed Minister for Public Finances, announced the decision.

La reports comments from the Minister: "We plan to have a well developed proposal with short, medium and long term measures ready for 2011".

The country has one of the lowest rates of tax collection in Latin America.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

real estate information


More than one of you has asked me why I've not gotten into real estate here in Guate, what with all the tourists looking for short-term rentals and the demographic changes in the US that will likely lead ever-higher numbers of retirees to move here instead of Destin or Tucson.

Well, the short answer is I don't believe real estate here in Antigua is a good investment. At $100/sqft, asking prices are often little different than what you'll find in the US (although perhaps not NYC or LA). I've explained on the blog in great detail why this is the case, briefly, Guatemalans use real estate as a 'bank', artificially propping up prices, and real estate has a sentimental value to locals that it doesn't to foreigners, wealthy capitalinos own property here which is rarely for sale at any price, and increasing numbers of foreigners are buying homes as long-term second homes. All this drives up prices and reduces supply.

The real test of the real estate value is what they rent for. As this article in the WSJ points out, a good rule of thumb is that monthly rent is often about 1% of the market value. And yet, you'll discover that you can rent a $500,000 house for $1,500 a month. That tells you something is wrong. What is something really worth? Only what you can sell it or rent it for. Imagine getting $18,000 a year (that's gross income, too), on a $500,000 house. Sounds like less than 4% to me, and that's IF it's rented 100% of the time. I know houses that have been vacant since I first got here two years ago. Lots of them.

So, I won't be buying real estate any time soon because there's not enough investment cash flow in it. But if you're looking to buy a house to retire in, or otherwise own for the next 20 years, and you're certain of it, then it's probably a decent bet.


Real estate guatemala online listing.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Many different programs I'd like to see us incorporate at Lake Atitlan:

DukeEngage Goes Green

o Carbon Footprint

In collaboration with Sustainable Duke and the Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative, DukeEngage is offering students the opportunity to counter their carbon footprint through the purchase of a share of a North Carolina-based project for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


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About DukeEngage

What is DukeEngage's Mission?

DukeEngage empowers students to address critical human needs through immersive service, in the process transforming students, advancing the University’s educational mission, and providing meaningful assistance to communities in the U.S. and abroad.

How does the program work?

DukeEngage provides funding for Duke undergraduates who wish to pursue an immersive (minimum of eight weeks) service experience by meeting a community need locally, domestically or internationally. Thanks to funding from The Duke Endowment and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, DukeEngage funded and supported 350 students in both group programs and independent projects during the summer of 2009. Since the program began in 2007, more than 800 Duke students have participated.

Where is DukeEngage located on campus?

DukeEngage has its offices, along with others who comprise the Duke Center for Civic Engagement, in Smith Warehouse, located just off of East Campus at 114 South Buchanan Blvd., Bays 7 and 8, Second Floor. (At this time, the best way to enter is on the north side of the building in an entrance leading into Bay 8; the DukeEngage reception area is in Bay 7.)

What sorts of projects take place?

Students are involved in a vast range of civic engagement activities, including environmental advocacy, community outreach, global health, education, social justice and more. For example, in the past three years, students have:

• launched mentoring and school enrichment programs;

• created community support initiatives;

• designed health education and outreach programs

• improved a community’s health information infrastructure;

• produced environmental education documentaries;

• developed microfinance opportunities for disadvantaged women and families.

These projects and others have taken place in more than 40 nations around the world. In the summer of 2010, 350 Duke students are participating in either DukeEngage group or individual programs across the globe. For more information, view our section on Immersion Programs.

Who may participate in DukeEngage?

Duke undergraduates in good standing who have completed two semesters of coursework are eligible and may apply. Because post-experience reflection and sharing with others in the Duke community is a central tenet of the DukeEngage philosophy, the program is restricted to applications from first-year students, sophomores and juniors who plan to return to campus following their DukeEngage experience for at least a full-time semester. DukeEngage will cover expenses (travel and living) associated with the immersion experience. For students on need-based financial aid, Duke will also assume responsibility for the “summer earnings” requirement.

When can I apply and to which programs?

Please refer to the calendar of key dates and deadlines in the Applying to DukeEngage category. Note that students may apply for either an independent project of their own creation or may apply to one or two group programs (if applying to two programs, one must exist in the United States). An online application goes live annually once group programs are announced in early October. Information sessions are held throughout the fall. Application deadlines vary (check the DukeEngage web site for key dates related to applying). Students interested in developing an independent project should plan to meet with a DukeEngage staff advisor in the fall as they begin conceptualizing their project in advance of submitting their application online.

Duke Center for Civic Engagement • Smith Warehouse • 114 S. Buchanan Blvd. • 2nd Floor • Bays 7 & 8 • Durham, NC 27708 • 919.660.3223 •

Social Entrepreneur Corps

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Unique Destinations: Guatemala

Headquarters: Antigua - "Colonial Capital"
Satellite Site: Nebaj - "Mountain Hideaway"
Satellite Site: Lake Atitlan - "Nature's Gift"
Satellite Site: Xela - "The Highlands"
Satellite Site: Coban - "Outdoor Paradise"

It is difficult to imagine that any other country in the world can offer such diversity of wonders as Guatemala. Despite its relatively small size, (roughly that of Tennessee) Guatemala boasts landscapes ranging from tropical beaches to highland sierras, jungles to dry lowlands. Sharing this land are dozens of ethnic groups, all with unique cultures and customs, and speaking over 20 different languages. The wonderful strength and vibrancy of Mayan culture has allowed it to survive remarkably durability, and its richness and colorfulness will delight any visitor. Between its dramatic landscapes and warm inhabitants, Guatemala will be a country you will never forget.

The majority of the population lives in the highlands of the western part of the country. The highlands offer the traveler incredible mountain ranges, interspersed with towering volcanoes, upon which fall atmospheric clouds and mists. Here is your opportunity to truly live 'above the clouds. The average altitude here is over 1500 meters above sea level, producing a climate ideal for the cultivation of all sorts of crops, especially maize, the sacred corn of the Mayans. This altitude also ensures a delightful climate of warm, sunny days and cool evenings, earning Guatemala the name "Land of Eternal Spring". Travelers could spend years exploring the highlands and still not tire of its scenery and cultural richness. But Guatemala still has much more to offer, especially in the northern jungle region of Peten , with its incredible wildlife and spectacular Mayan temples.

Guatemala is truly a special place. With our unmatched experience here, we believe we can offer you the best of Guatemala.

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Headquarters: Antigua -"Colonial Capital"
Antigua is an exquisitely pretty colonial town situated in a spectacular setting, nestling below the three imposing volcanoes of Agua, Fuego and Acatenango. It is one the finest surviving examples in Latin America of colonial town planning, laid out on a grid pattern emanating from the central park, whilst the many fine examples of Spanish colonial architecture have earned it the position of UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's pretty cobbled streets are filled with old churches, theatres and houses built around courtyards, all painted in delightful pastel colors. As well as being full of fascinating historical sites, Antigua is now also a lively and international town, where you'll never tire of exploring the restaurants and bars filled with food from around the world. If all this weren't enough, we should add that Antigua also boasts a wonderful climate of warm, sunny days and cool evenings.

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Satellite Site: Nebaj - "Mountain Hideaway"
Nebaj is the home of the Ixil group, one of the most distinct Mayan cultures. The Ixils are world famous for their stunning, intricately women traditional clothing, and it is a wonderful experience for a traveler to visit a place where the local culture feels at the same time so traditional and so vibrant. Nebaj is far from the cosmopolitan sophistication of Antigua, but it is also a bustling, lively town.

The people are warm, and travelers can take part in traditional customs, like the local sauna, a tamascal , or make the traditional food, boxboles. Nebaj is a heavenly place to visit for those who enjoy hiking, sitting as it does in a beautiful valley surrounded by verdant mountains. Exploring the villages around Nebaj will take the intrepid visitor to some of the most remote places in the Americas. The combination of spectacular landscapes and local culture makes Nebaj the favorite spot in Guatemala for many visitors.

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Satellite Site: Lake Atitlan - "Nature's Gift"
For many, there is no more spectacular site in the world that the sun setting over the Lake Atitlan as the evening mist descends. English novelist Aldous Huxley described the lake as like " Lake Como with the added embellishment of several immense volcanoes" and decided it was the most beautiful lake in the world. Once the traveler gets their breath back after the first look at the incredible view of the lake, they can begin to explore the trails and nature parks that surround it- the hardy can even attempt to ascend one of the volcanoes. The lake itself is beautiful for swimming, and there are even places to go scuba diving. Dotted around the shore of the lake are dozens of towns, from busy Panajachel, with its international scene and restaurants, to sleepy indigenous towns such as San Juan La Laguna. Whether for a short visit or a longer stay, the beauty of the Lake will stay with you forever.

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Satellite Site: Xela - "The Highlands"
Quetzaltenango, or Xela as it is more usually known, is fast becoming of the most popular places in Latin America to learn Spanish and do volunteer work, and it's not hard to understand why. Offering the advantages of a city, with cinemas, good restaurants, bars and entertainment, Xela has much more the feel of a large town- easy to navigate and get to know. It's a friendly place, with the typical bustle of highland Guatemala very much present, and the beauty of the surrounding mountains is always visible. What's more, within easy reach are many beautiful trips, such as to the hot springs of Fuentes Georginas, or even try to climb Central America 's largest volcano, Tajumulco.

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Satellite Site: Coban - "Outdoor Paradise"
Coban is situated at the heart of the unique, highland tropical region of Alta and Baja Verapaz. It is therefore the ideal spot for nature enthusiasts, with such an incredible wealth of natural wonders to explore. From the cloud forests of Baja Verapaz to the tropical heat of northern Alta Verapaz, the region is home to spectacular wildlife and incredible landscapes. Highlights include Semuc Champey, a series of idyllic lagoons, the mysterious crater-lake of Lachua, the vast caves of Candelaria and of the course the majestic bird the quetzal, the national symbol of Guatemala. There are countless opportunities for activities such as rafting, climbing and hiking.

Coban itself is a pleasant, sleepy town where the Kekchi Mayan group are dominant. There are many fine restaurants, and also of course the famous Coban coffee, perhaps the finest in the world!

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map of guatemala

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Guatemala: Economic Recovery Uncertain

Source: Social Studies and Investigation Asociation (Guatemala)
Friday, July 16, 2010

The latest business survey carried out by Asies reveals that expectations of a recovery in the second half of 2010 have been postponed to 2011.
In the previous survey from the Association for Investigation and Social Studies (ASIES) the perception was that the Guatemalan economy would recover in the last six months of this year. However, the results of the latest survey cast doubt on this recovery with the main indicators of business activity showing unfavorable behavior relative to the previous study.

The balance of opinion regarding manufacturing output did not indicate a continuation of the growth in the previous two surveys. Capacity remains under-utilized and confidence in output over the next six months has fallen slightly.

Guatemalan Internet Contrasted with Region's

Comparison and analysis of both fixed and mobile connection charges.
An article by Jorge Coj Sam on The Black Box comments that, “a detailed analysis of the cost per Kbps with different companies in the Mexican and Central American markets uncovers several surprises”.

Comparing the cost of different connection speeds reveals a clear advantage in Costa Rica where charges are the lowest at most of the speeds offered. Mexico comes a close second but has less varied connection speeds available. Guatemala and El Salvador have the highest prices for the slowest connection speeds with similar prices at the higher speeds.

Guatemala host of Euro Expo 2010

Guatemala host of Euro Expo 2010, Bridge of Opportunities

Guatemala City. This exiting event is organized by the German Chamber of Commerce Industry and the Guatemalan Exporter Association. Central American Entrepreneurs are invited to participate in the second Edition of EURO EXPO 2010 trade show: "Bridge of Opportunities." Guatemala will be the host of this important trade show; the event will take place from July 20-22 at Expocenter of the Hotel Grand Tikal Futura in Guatemala City. The inauguration of the event will take place on July 19, 18:00-20:00 pm.

The organizers expect to attract entrepreneurs from Europe, Central America and Panama. At the launching of the event, important personalities of the Government of Guatemala and the EU and the Central American business community, as well as representatives of the international press where present. Among the guest where Guatemala's Minister of Economy, Rubén Morales, Europe Union functionaries, Rafael Señan Llarena, the Guatemalan-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Gunther Reitzel, the Guatemalan Exporters Association, Carlos Amador and the Enforcement of the International Market Position Program Guatemala, Jorge Estrada (FOGUAMI, acronym in Spanish). FOGUAMI is the program that counts with the financial support of the European Unión and the Guatemalan Economy Ministry.

The goals of EURO EXPO 2010, 2nd. Editions are to establish a commerce platform to facilitate the sustainable increase of the commercial relationships and investments between Central America and the European Unión, as well as expand the knowledge of the Central American market as an attraction to investors.

Euro Expo 2010 will be capitalizing the opportunities of business generated by the Association Agreement between the Europe Unión and Central America. The Association Agreement between Central America and the European Unión is based on three pillars: Political Dialogue, Cooperation and Trade.

Europe has a population about 500 millions, with particular consumer habits that will be discussed in the workshops of the Trade Expo.

For further information go to:
Phone: (502) 2337- 1820, (502) 2337- 1630

Moodys Raises Guatemala Rating

Moody's Raises Guatemala’s Rating

Thursday, July 15, 2010
The raising of the country’s rating from Ba2 to Ba1 means that Guatemala is now just one step away from investment grade.
According to local ratings agencies the reason the country has not reached investment grade is weakness in its socio-economic indicators.

“Additional weak spots are its tax burden, a vulnerable legal system and questionable infrastructure,” according to “The only Latin American countries with an investment grade rating are Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Panama”.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

APROFAM clinics ~ International Planned Parenthood

Birth Control Clinics in Guatemala ~ I would like to help support this group. CT

Revue Magazine

How I Got Gelded and Respected

Posted: 01 Jul 2010 05:33 AM PDT

We all recall that Rodney Dangerfield’s one-liner, “I get no respect,” became his middle name. His fans (including me) suspected that before turning pro, Rodney worked countless, tedious day jobs. But there was (and still is) something that any man can do to summon for himself beaucoup respect, one that will knock him on his back— somewhat literally.

I refer to vasectomy at one of Guatemala’s APROFAM clinics.

The arrival of my third son, Aaron, was unplanned, but I rejoice hourly for his presence. He and his brothers have channeled so much joy into my life, even prenatally, that I could wish the stork could continue to visit at 40-month intervals. But the wife and I are quite middle-aged, and I realized that if this keeps up, I might be in Depends before my kids are out of Pampers.

So, further pregnancies would have to be averted. Not that there was any big risk, since at my age marital congress can be as infrequent as blue moons. Even so, next time that it really is that time of the decade, morning sickness must not follow. So I volunteered to be neutered, to save the wife from being spayed. It seemed like the, uh, manly thing to do.

Most people think APROFAM is governmental, but it is in fact a foundation seeking to reduce Guatemala’s soaring natural increase, which rivals the Dominican Republic for first place in the Americas. Countrywide, APROFAM has dozens of clinics; these provide operations for folks wanting to avoid pregnancies, and pre- and post-natal care for those who do not.

We were brothers in what is apparently Central America’s second-smallest fraternity. The social worker remarked that this was the first time she had seen two men on the same day.

At the time of my own visit (2007), men were fixed for Q25—cheaper than a Mac Attack, yet better both for posterity and for one’s arteries. Women were fixed for Q75.

My arrival on the appointed day was cause for elation among the clinic employees, almost all of whom were women. The reason was not “Look girls! Mr. Expat Make-out Man, whose fame precedes him, is through sewing wild oats!” No, it was more like, “Look girls! There are two men here today!”

And so there were. In the packed waiting room, myself and one other dude, among dozens of women, held appointment cards. Other men were present, but not as patients. They were there to provide bedside support or to see for themselves that the thing would be done.

I had spoken over the previous weeks with the APROFAM file clerk, the secretary, the nurse and the social worker—all women. Each treated me as if I were the Pope granting them a private audience. Each adored me with the same fixation as did women in the old Charles Atlas ads—where the 97-pound weakling chases off the bully after undergoing body-building. Are you Rodney Dangerfields paying attention?

A one point I was surveyed, since APROFAM wants to know who their customers are. They asked about how many children I already had, about my age, about my profession—and even about my religion. That raised my eyebrows a little. But these people were on a good mission, so I had best cooperate.

The women’s operation entails not only more invasiveness, but more preparation. So, a whole room is set aside for them to recline in after the nurse administers injections on the shoulder and in the groin. The waiting women were all led off for this, leaving me alone with Pablo (the other guy) and his wife, Yoli. We chatted and became fast friends. We were brothers in what is apparently Central America’s second-smallest fraternity (the smallest being tuk-tuk operators who read Miss Manners). The social worker remarked that this was the first time she had seen two men on the same day. On most days, she added, they see none. She estimated, unofficially, that spay patients outnumber neuter patients by 45ish to one.

Pablo, the braver of us two, went first. Yoli and I talked some more. She told me how much she appreciated Pablo for insisting that he, not she, would have an operation. And she gave me the same “You are a real man!” smile that I got from the clinic workers.

After 15 minutes, however, Pablo emerged from the operating room, taking tiny steps and cupping his, uh, jewels. Oops! The real man in me began to falter. The nurse apparently noticed, for she said, “Pues, it’s not what you think. He’s not in pain. Just following doctor’s orders.” Pablo himself gave me a look that said, “If I could, you’d better.”

And so I did. It was not wholly painless, as zero-growth campaigners sometimes claim. But it was easier than many trips to the dentist. The harder part was that the operation was performed by a boy surgeon under the observation of two young female medical students. In my state of full blush, I was still fully clothed by the time I was on the table. The medical crew had seen this before, evidently. So, with some determined wrenching they dropped my drawers for me without any hint of “oh-he’s-one-of-those!”

I thought, “Wow—strange women are undressing me!” The wife thinks this happens a lot (PS: it never happens even with unstrange women). I could not look these women in the eye; maybe I was afraid to see them seeing me. But their dispassion and professionalism calmed me, unexpectedly. Weeks later I recognized one of them on a Sololá street, coming my direction, so I altered my course just in time. My inner voice exclaimed, “That chick has seen me naked!” Later I regretted this, since the manhood that such women must admire is not about anatomy but character, and it is always good to meet admirers.

And so, four years later, Aaron remains my baby. Marital congress remains rare, but the door may be opening for my greatest hope: adopting a little girl who will grow up counting her Dad a real man.



International Planned Parenthood

Country profile: Guatemala
The Asociacion Pro-Bienestar de la Familia de Guatemala (APROFAM) offers family planning services in 23 clinics throughout the country and works with 316 private physicians and 16 private clinics in areas where health services are poor.

We provide integrated health services including family planning and maternal and child health care, and are concentrating on reaching people in rural areas, where we provide contraception, oral rehydration and parasite treatment.

We also train midwives and traditional doctors to provide family planning and have developed two instructional manuals for community outreach distributors and supervisors. ...(more)

Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
View of Lake Atitlan and volcano from my apartment balcony in Panajachel. Taken by Catherine Todd June 2008.