Álvaro Arzú

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Álvaro Arzú
Álvaro Arzú 2017 (cropped-b).jpg
Alvaro Arzú in June 2017
32nd President of Guatemala
In office
14 January 1996 – 14 January 2000
Vice PresidentLuis Alberto Flores Asturias
Preceded byRamiro de León Carpio
Succeeded byAlfonso Portillo
Mayor of Guatemala City
In office
14 January 2004 – 27 April 2018
DeputyRicardo Quiñónez Lemus
Preceded byFritz García Gallont
Succeeded byRicardo Quiñónez Lemus
In office
14 January 1986 – 1990
Preceded byJosé Angel Lee
Arturo Saravia
Succeeded byÁlvaro Heredia
Óscar Berger
Personal details
Álvaro Enrique Arzú Yrigoyen

(1946-03-14)14 March 1946
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Died27 April 2018(2018-04-27) (aged 72)
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Political partyNational Advancement Party / Unionist Party
Spouse(s)Sylvia García Granados (1969–1981)
Patricia Escobar de Arzú (1981–2018; his death)
ChildrenRoberto Arzú
Diego Arzú
María Arzú
Álvaro Arzú
Isabel Arzú

Álvaro Enrique Arzú Yrigoyen (Spanish: [ˈalbaɾo enˈɾike aɾˈsu iɾiˈɡoʎen]; 14 March 1946 – 27 April 2018) was a Guatemalan politician who was the 32nd President of Guatemala from 14 January 1996 until 14 January 2000. He was elected Mayor of Guatemala City on six occasions: in 1982, when he declined taking office because of a coup d'état; in 1986; in 2003, after serving as president; in 2007; in 2011, and in 2015, for a term that would see him die in office.

Early career[edit]

Born in Guatemala City, Arzú studied Social and Legal Sciences at Rafael Landívar University.[1] In 1978 he became director of the Guatemalan Institute of Tourism (INGUAT); he occupied this position until 1981, when he was elected mayor of Guatemala City for the Guatemalan Christian Democracy (DCG) party.[1] But in 1982 there was a military coup d'état and, although the elections were annulled, the military offered him to be the municipal intendent, which he declined.[2][3] In 1986 he became mayor, after winning the election under the umbrella of the Plan for National Advancement civic committee.[1]

In 1989 the civic committee became the National Advancement Party (PAN). Arzú was their presidential candidate for the 1990 elections, where he finished in fourth place with 17.3 percent of the vote.[1] The winner, Jorge Serrano, appointed Arzú as Minister for Foreign Affairs in 1991, but he resigned later that year in protest against Serrano's decision to normalize relations with Belize, over most of whose territory Guatemala has long standing claims.[2]


Arzú won the first round of the 1995 general elections in November, and then narrowly beat Alfonso Portillo of the Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG, Frente Republicano Guatemalteco) in the second round, which took place in January 1996. He obtained 51.2 percent of the vote.[4]

The main achievement of Arzú's presidency was the signature of a peace accord with the guerrilla group Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity, which ended Guatemala's 36-year-long civil war.[1][2] The negotiations had been going on since 1990, and Arzú gave them a vital new impulse when he met the URNG in Mexico on 26 February 1996.[2] A ceasefire followed on 20 March and various peace agreements were signed as the year progressed.[2] On 12 December an accord legalizing the URNG was signed in Madrid.[2] On 18 December Congress passed a law giving a partial amnesty to the combatants, before the final accord for a firm and lasting peace was signed on 29 December.[2]

As part of this peace accord, Arzú's government proposed a series of reforms to the Constitution of Guatemala; these reforms included disbanding the Presidential Guard, reducing the armed forces and recognizing the rights of indigenous communities. The proposed reforms were rejected in a referendum which took place in 1999.[2]

Under Arzú's presidency, there was a significant investment in the country's infrastructure; particularly, the roads were improved, and electric and telephone coverage was increased.[5] As part of this process, several public transportation and utility companies were privatized, which drew heavy criticism due to accusations of irregularities during the process. Some of these companies were the electric utility Empresa Eléctrica de Guatemala (EEGSA), the telephone service provider GUATEL, the national airline Aviateca, and the railway company FEGUA.[2]

Among other challenges faced by Arzú's government were the murder of Archbishop Juan José Gerardi in 1998, which was later attributed to members of the Presidential Guard. Also, the destruction caused by Hurricane Mitch that same year, and the increase in the crime rate. Despite this, the gross domestic product grew about 3 percent annually and inflation was reduced to 5 percent.[2]

Officers close to his government carried out assassinations of activists of social organizations.[6]

Later career and death[edit]

After his presidential term, Arzú became a member of the Central American Parliament; he occupied this seat from 2000 to 2004.[1] He was elected for a second term as mayor of Guatemala City in 2003, and was elected again in 2007, 2011, and 2015. His last term was set to finish in 2020.[1]

During this period, Arzú established the Transmetro bus rapid transit system and worked on restoring the historical center of Guatemala City.[7]

In his final years, 2017 and 2018, Arzú crusaded against the United Nations Commissioner of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), Iván Velásquez, and against the Attorney General, Thelma Aldana, openly accusing them of carrying out a slow coup d'état against President Morales under the cover of a fight against corruption and impunity. In the meantime, he had come under fire himself. On 27 April 2018, Arzú had a heart attack while playing golf in Guatemala City. He died in hospital later that day.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Arzú had three children with his first wife, Sylvia García Granados, and two children with his second wife, Patricia Escobar.[2] His son, Álvaro Arzú Escobar, is the current president of the Congress of Guatemala.[9]

He was Guatemala's national squash rackets champion on several occasions.[2]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h González, Eduardo (27 April 2018). "Biografía de Álvaro Arzú, expresidente de Guatemala y alcalde capitalino". Prensa Libre (in Spanish). Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Ortiz de Zárate, Roberto. "Álvaro Arzú Yrigoyen". CIDOB (in Spanish). Barcelona Centre for International Affairs. Archived from the original on 6 May 2018. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Alvaro Arzú" (in Spanish). Municipalidad de Guatemala. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  4. ^ Base de Datos Políticos de las Américas (1999). "Guatemala: 1995-1996 Elecciones Presidenciales" (in Spanish). Georgetown University and Organization of American States. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  5. ^ Asociación de Amigos del País (2004). Diccionario histórico biográfico de Guatemala (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Guatemala: Fundación para la Cultura y el Desarrollo. pp. 60–61. ISBN 99922-44-01-1.
  6. ^ Détry, Clement (1 May 2019). "The captured state of Guatemala". Le Monde diplomatique.
  7. ^ "Alvaro Enrique Arzú Irigoyen" (in Spanish). Municipalidad de Guatemala. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  8. ^ Eduardo González; William Cumes (27 April 2018), "Muere Álvaro Arzú por un infarto", Prensa Libre (in Spanish), retrieved 27 April 2018
  9. ^ "Ex-President Who Signed Accord Ending Guatemala's War Dies". The New York Times. 27 April 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  10. ^ "Álvaro Arzú Presidente de Guatemala (1996–2000) y Miembro club madrid". www.clubmadrid.org (in Spanish). World Leadership Alliance – Club de Madrid. Retrieved 29 April 2018.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by President of Guatemala
Succeeded by
Preceded by Mayor of Guatemala City
Succeeded by
Preceded by Mayor of Guatemala City
Succeeded by
Ricardo Quiñónez Lemus