Álvaro Arzú (On leave)
President of Guatemala (1996-2000)
Date and Place of Birth:
14 March 1946, Guatemala City.
Álvaro Arzú received a degree in Social and Legal Science from the University of Rafael Landívar.
Professional Experience: His career has been linked to the tourist, commercial, and industrial sectors, as well as to public administration. Before dedicating himself to politics, he served as the Director of the Guatemalan Tourist Institute from 1978 to 1981.
In 1982 he was elected Mayor of Guatemala City. In spite of his victory, a military coup prevented him from assuming the duties of the position. The military junta then offered to nominate him as mayor of the city, but he refused. Later on, he founded a civil committee called the “Plan for National Advancement” (PAN) and with its support ran in the mayoral election of 1985, where he won a definite victory.
In 1989 the civil committee became a political party and, with the help of this new organization, Arzú ran in the 1990 presidential election but without success. In January of 1991, under the government of Serrano Elías, he accepted the position of Minister of Foreign Relations. After nine months, he resigned over disagreements with the general policies of the administration, which ended in an internal coup.
In 1995, he won the presidential election. His first important initiative was to support the peace process. After ten months of bilateral meetings with the guerrilla forces, the Arzú administration finished the UN-supervised negotiation process that had been drawn out for six years during three previous administrations.
During his administration, government spending quadrupled, especially in areas such as education, healthcare, infrastructure and security. This spending obtained significant gains, such as an approximate 10% decrease in illiteracy and in the mortality rate; a five-year increase in life expectancy; a reduction in crime; an increase in electrical coverage of the country by 20%; the doubling of the number of paved roads; a 300% increase in telephone coverage; a 25% increase in the minimum wage; a 3% decrease in inflation in simple numbers; and a 20% increase in the PIB.
He left the presidency in January of 2000 and now serves as Mayor of Guatemala City for the Unionist Party.
He has been awarded various honours and recognitions at both the national and international level, including the Prince of Asturias and Internacional Cooperation Award (1997); the Feliz Houphout Boigny Prize, awarded by UNESCO; the Galardón Monseñor Leonidas Proaño Award, given by the Latin American Association for Human Rights, and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of De Paul in Chicago, among others.