Guatemala, which gained its independence in 1821, serves as the northern bottleneck of the Central American isthmus. Its history has been defined by political and military struggles that not only stunted human capital and economic growth, but left lasting marks on domestic social relations, as well as international relations. After 36 years of open civil conflict ended in 1996, a more democratic government began looking for strategies to develop a healthy and fair economy. While Gross Domestic Product has surged at times, international economic shocks, a poor domestic security environment, and continued incidences of corruption hamper efforts to gain momentum towards growth.
 Banco de Guatemala. (2015). Guatemala en Cifras. Retrieved from: http://www.banguat.gob.gt/Publica/guatemala_en_cifras_2015.pdf.  International Monetary Fund. (2014). World Economic Outlook Database. October 2014 Edition. Retrieved from: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2014/02/weodata/index.aspx.  Ibid.  Instituto Nacional de Estadística de Guatemala. (2013). Caracterización República de Guatemala 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.ine.gob.gt/sistema/uploads/2014/02/26/L5pNHMXzxy5FFWmk9NHCrK9x7E5Qqvvy.pdf.  Ibid.  Ibid.  Ibid.