Vice Consul and Acting Consul General Guatemala

My lovely and gracious guest today is the Hon. Mayra Ruiz Prado. She is the Vice Consul of Guatemala in Houston and has been exercising the duties of the Consul General while caring for a school age daughter.

Q: How long have you been in Houston? What are some of the places you enjoy going to in Houston?

A: I have been in Houston for four years. I love going to all the parks, fresh air areas and zoos. Also, I love Texas barbecue.

Q: Have you always wanted to be a consul? Did you study for the diplomatic service?

A: Yes. Finding a career is a part of growing up. We all look for more knowledge and experience. In my case, it was finding a way to be of service to the Guatemalan Community overseas. I went to Mariano Galvez College where I majored in Social Studies and Legal Sciences earning a BA degree.

Q: What states are included in your territory?

A: Our office serves 67 counties in Texas and the State of Louisiana.

Q: What are some of the goals you have for Texas-Guatemalan relations?

A: According to my supervisors in the Guatemalan Department of Foreign Relations, “The Guatemalan Consulates in the US have as their main duties and obligations providing documentation, assistance and migratory protection to Guatemalan citizens that reside in the US. Currently. We have 24 Consulates all over the US because we have a huge community of Guatemalans in the country. However, besides those responsibilities, the Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has established guidelines for commercial diplomacy to Guatemala’s exports into the US”. In the particular case of the state of Texas, we are always looking for ways to promote these different areas through in-bound and out-bound trade missions. I feel Texas represents a huge opportunity for Guatemala’s exports since it is rapidly becoming a trade hub for Latin America because of its strategic location, diverse economy and population. Additionally, the Government of Guatemala has developed a strategy plan called “Guatemala Moving Forward” that establishes how we can capitalize nearshoring opportunities with the North American market, Guatemala can take advantage of this trend by leveraging its strategic location, skilled workforce, and competitive production costs.

Q: What are some of the perks that Guatemala has for foreign owned businesses?

A: The Foreign Investment Act guarantees equal treatment and enjoyment of constitutional rights to foreign and local investors. It also gives investors the right to participate in legal economic activities, distribute profits to shareholders, and repatriate capital. I consulted with the Foreign Relations Departments in Guatemala and they outlined 5 reasons to invest in Guatemala. I am sharing them with you for your readers.

1. Guatemala is the largest economy in Central America, strategically located to serve large consumer markets. Its proximity to the US allows us to connect and respond rapidly within 2 to 3 days by sea and/or flights that only take 2 to 3 hours. We have different Trade Agreements with important markets that allow different products and services from Guatemala preferential access.

2. Stable Macroeconomics: The country’s macroeconomic performance has been the most stable in the Americas in the last 20 years, with stable and controlled inflation (close to 4% per year), high monetary reserves, sustained economic growth of around 3% per year (even during the worst years of the world economic crisis).

3. Highly diversified productive sector:

• Agriculture accounts for 9.3% of GDP

• Commercial Activities account for 18.3% of GDP• Manufacturing Industry accounts for 14.24% of GDP

4. Competitive production costs and talented work-force:

Guatemalan products with greater presence in international markets. We went from exporting mainly agricultural products to exporting more than 4 thousand products and services of high added value to 140 countries.

5. Competitive energy costs: this has allowed for large domestic and foreign investments in electricity generation and supply, resulting in the lowest prices in Central America, second only to Mexico.

Q: Can an American buy property in Guatemala?

A: Guatemala is very friendly toward foreign ownership of business and personal property in Guatemala. There is a very large American community in Guatemala in the Capital and other cities. The law protects Guatemalan and Foreign owned property equally.

Q: Are there any special taxes or tax benefits for an import/export business?

A: Guatemala has more than 30 trade and investment agreements with partnering countries that allow Guatemala’s exports and imports preferential access (or that are duty free). Guatemala has laws that grant different tax incentives for the promotion of the industrial /service exporting activity.

Q: What are Guatemala’s main exports?

A: Guatemala’s main exports include agricultural products such as sugar, coffee, tropical fruits and vegetables, palm oil, rubber and timber amongst others.. However, our economy has become more sophisticated as we have become an important manufacturer of the whole value chain for apparel and textile in the Americas. In terms of services, Guatemala is known for providing outsourced services, especially to American companies, in business processes, customer contact services and other information technology services.

Q: When you are in Guatemala, what are some of your favorite places to visit?

A: I really enjoy going to Morazan, the hometown of my parents. My mother passed away 2 years ago. My father and 2 brothers are still in Guatemala.. As I mentioned before,I have a very large family of cousins. When I go there, I am better able to enjoy the climate, the natural beauty of the land and mountains, and the food just seems better.

Q: Is there anything you would like to add here for our readers that we did not cover?

A: The most important aspect of our work in the Consulate, and the one I have made a priority, is the protection of Guatemalan citizens who live and work in Houston, and other areas in Texas and Louisiana. We become involved with their daily lives from where they live and work, to caring for their families. Sometimes, we visit Guatemalans in the hospital and assist with finding other medical services. Occasionally, we help them understand how to find a job to support themselves and their families. There are sometimes painful duties. We have the difficult job of helping a Guatemalan citizen who has gotten into trouble with the law. Our relationship with Guatemalan citizens does not end with their obtaining a permanent residency or citizenship in the US. I am encouraging them to stay in touch with us. Recently we had a town hall meeting for Guatemalans here in Houston and we covered the ways we serve and what we offer. There are ways they can help by getting involved with their community.

Q: As a Guatemalan-American, I would like to offer you the opportunity to say something about Guatemala as a destination.

A: I would like to close by inviting anyone that has not yet traveled to Guatemala, whether if it’s for business or for pleasure, to come and discover the natural beauty and exciting investment opportunities that Guatemala offers! From its historic cities to the tranquil shores of its breathtaking lakes, Guatemala offers a unique blend of cultural richness and natural beauty. Houstonians are invited to explore the lush landscapes, ancient Mayan ruins, and dynamic markets. Beyond its scenic attractions, Guatemala is a land of productive business ventures, with sectors such as tourism, agriculture, and textiles open to investment. They can experience the warmth of Guatemalan hospitality and uncover a world of possibilities that blend adventure with opportunity.

Q: Again thank you for your time, your patience, and your very thorough efforts for our readers. You are a real asset to Guatemala, and I hope your tenure here is a long one.

For information about travel or business in Guatemala, contact Mayra Ruiz at 713-953-9531Or email mruiz@minex.gob.gt.


Written by: Heidi PP iF Magazine

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