The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Guatemalan Politicians of all time. This list of famous Guatemalan Politicians is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Guatemalan Politicians.
With an HPI of 62.04, Jacobo Árbenz is the most famous Guatemalan Politician. His biography has been translated into 44 different languages on wikipedia.
Juan Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán (Spanish: [xwaŋ xaˈkoβo ˈaɾβenz ɣuzˈman]; 14 September 1913 – 27 January 1971) was a Guatemalan military officer and politician who served as the 25th President of Guatemala. He was Minister of National Defense from 1944 to 1950, and the second democratically elected President of Guatemala, from 1951 to 1954. He was a major figure in the ten-year Guatemalan Revolution, which represented some of the few years of representative democracy in Guatemalan history. The landmark program of agrarian reform Árbenz enacted as president was very influential across Latin America.Árbenz was born in 1913 to a wealthy family, son of a Swiss German father and a Guatemalan mother. He graduated with high honors from a military academy in 1935, and served in the army until 1944, quickly rising through the ranks. During this period, he witnessed the violent repression of agrarian laborers by the United States-backed dictator Jorge Ubico, and was personally required to escort chain-gangs of prisoners, an experience that contributed to his progressive views. In 1938 he met and married María Vilanova, who was a great ideological influence on him, as was José Manuel Fortuny, a Guatemalan communist. In October 1944 several civilian groups and progressive military factions led by Árbenz and Francisco Arana rebelled against Ubico's repressive policies. In the elections that followed, Juan José Arévalo was elected president, and began a highly popular program of social reform. Árbenz was appointed Minister of Defense, and played a crucial role in putting down a military coup in 1949.After the death of Arana, Árbenz contested the presidential elections that were held in 1950 and without significant opposition defeated Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes, his nearest challenger, by a margin of over 50%. He took office on 15 March 1951, and continued the social reform policies of his predecessor. These reforms included an expanded right to vote, the ability of workers to organize, legitimizing political parties, and allowing public debate. The centerpiece of his policy was an agrarian reform law under which uncultivated portions of large land-holdings were expropriated in return for compensation and redistributed to poverty-stricken agricultural laborers. Approximately 500,000 people benefited from the decree. The majority of them were indigenous people, whose forebears had been dispossessed after the Spanish invasion. His policies ran afoul of the United Fruit Company, which lobbied the United States government to have him overthrown. The US was also concerned by the presence of communists in the Guatemalan government, and Árbenz was ousted in the 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état engineered by the government of US president Dwight Eisenhower through the US Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency. Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas replaced him as president. Árbenz went into exile through several countries, where his family gradually fell apart, and his daughter committed suicide. He died in Mexico in 1971. In October 2011, the Guatemalan government issued an apology for Árbenz's overthrow.
With an HPI of 57.29, Efraín Ríos Montt is the 2nd most famous Guatemalan Politician. His biography has been translated into 34 different languages.
José Efraín Ríos Montt (Spanish: [efɾaˈin ˈrios ˈmont]; 16 June 1926 – 1 April 2018) was a Guatemalan military officer and politician who served as de facto President of Guatemala in 1982–83. His brief tenure as chief executive was one of the bloodiest periods in the long-running Guatemalan Civil War. Ríos Montt's counter-insurgency strategies significantly weakened the Marxist guerrillas organized under the umbrella of the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG), while also leading to accusations of war crimes and genocide perpetrated by the Guatemalan Army under his leadership.Ríos Montt was a career army officer. He was director of the Guatemalan military academy and rose to the rank of brigadier general. He was briefly chief of staff of the Guatemalan army in 1973, but was soon forced out of the position over differences with the military high command. He ran for president in the 1974 general election, losing to the official candidate General Kjell Laugerud in an electoral process widely regarded as fraudulent. In 1978, Ríos Montt controversially abandoned the Catholic Church and joined an Evangelical Christian group affiliated with the Gospel Outreach Church. In 1982, discontent with the rule of General Romeo Lucas García, the worsening security situation in Guatemala, and accusations of electoral fraud led to a coup d'état by a group of junior military officers who installed Ríos Montt as head of a government junta. Ríos Montt ruled as military dictator for less than seventeen months before he was overthrown in another coup led by his defense minister, General Óscar Mejía Victores. In 1989, Ríos Montt returned to the Guatemalan political scene as leader of a new political party, the Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG). He was elected many times to the Congress of Guatemala, serving as president of the Congress in 1995-96 and 2000–04. A constitutional provision prevented him from registering as a presidential candidate due to his involvement in the military coup of 1982, but the FRG obtained both the presidency and a congressional majority in the 1999 general election. Authorized by the Constitutional Court to run in the 2003 presidential elections, Ríos Montt came in third and withdrew from politics. He returned to public life in 2007 as a member of Congress, thereby gaining legal immunity from long-running lawsuits alleging war crimes committed by him and some of his ministers and counselors during their term in the presidential palace in 1982–83. His immunity ended on 14 January 2012, when his legislative term of office expired. In 2013 a court sentenced Ríos Montt to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity, but that sentence was quashed by the Constitutional Court and his retrial was never completed.
With an HPI of 56.34, Carlos Castillo Armas is the 3rd most famous Guatemalan Politician. His biography has been translated into 25 different languages.
Carlos Castillo Armas (locally ['kaɾlos kas'tiʝo 'aɾmas]; 4 November 1914 – 26 July 1957) was a Guatemalan military officer and politician who was the 28th president of Guatemala, serving from 1954 to 1957 after taking power in a coup d'état. A member of the right-wing National Liberation Movement (MLN) party, his authoritarian government was closely allied with the United States. Born to a planter, out of wedlock, Castillo Armas was educated at Guatemala's military academy. A protégé of Colonel Francisco Javier Arana, he joined Arana's forces during the 1944 uprising against President Federico Ponce Vaides. This began the Guatemalan Revolution and the introduction of representative democracy to the country. Castillo Armas joined the General Staff and became director of the military academy. Arana and Castillo Armas opposed the newly elected government of Juan José Arévalo; after Arana's failed 1949 coup, Castillo Armas went into exile in Honduras. Seeking support for another revolt, he came to the attention of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In 1950 he launched a failed assault on Guatemala City, before escaping back to Honduras. Influenced by lobbying by the United Fruit Company and Cold War fears of communism, in 1952 the US government of President Harry Truman authorized Operation PBFortune, a plot to overthrow Arévalo's successor, President Jacobo Árbenz. Castillo Armas was to lead the coup, but the plan was abandoned before being revived in a new form by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953. In June 1954, Castillo Armas led 480 CIA-trained soldiers into Guatemala, backed by US-supplied aircraft. Despite initial setbacks to the rebel forces, US support for the rebels made the Guatemalan army reluctant to fight, and Árbenz resigned on 27 June. A series of military juntas briefly held power during negotiations that ended with Castillo Armas assuming the presidency on 7 July. Castillo Armas consolidated his power in an October 1954 election, in which he was the only candidate; the MLN, which he led, was the only party allowed to contest the congressional elections. Árbenz's popular agricultural reform was largely rolled back, with land confiscated from small farmers and returned to large landowners. Castillo Armas cracked down on unions and peasant organizations, arresting and killing thousands. He created a National Committee of Defense Against Communism, which investigated over 70,000 people and added 10 percent of the population to a list of suspected communists. Despite these efforts, Castillo Armas faced significant internal resistance, which was blamed on communist agitation. The government, plagued by corruption and soaring debt, became dependent on aid from the US. In 1957 Castillo Armas was assassinated by a presidential guard with leftist sympathies. He was the first of a series of authoritarian rulers in Guatemala who were close allies of the US. His reversal of the reforms of his predecessors sparked a series of leftist insurgencies in the country after his death, culminating in the Guatemalan Civil War of 1960 to 1996.
With an HPI of 54.13, Jorge Ubico is the 4th most famous Guatemalan Politician. His biography has been translated into 25 different languages.
Jorge Ubico Castañeda (10 November 1878 – 14 June 1946), nicknamed Number Five or also Central America's Napoleon, was a Guatemalan dictator. A general in the Guatemalan army, he was elected to the presidency in 1931, in an election where he was the only candidate. He continued his predecessors' policies of giving massive concessions to the United Fruit Company and wealthy landowners, as well as supporting their harsh labor practices. Ubico has been described as "one of the most oppressive tyrants Guatemala has ever known" who compared himself to Adolf Hitler. He was removed by a pro-democracy uprising in 1944, which led to the ten-year Guatemalan Revolution.
With an HPI of 53.55, Alejandro Giammattei is the 5th most famous Guatemalan Politician. His biography has been translated into 31 different languages.
Alejandro Eduardo Giammattei Falla (Spanish pronunciation: [aleˈxãndɾo ʝamaˈtei]; born 9 March 1956) is a Guatemalan politician who is serving as the president of Guatemala since 2020. He is a former director of the Guatemalan penitentiary system and participated in Guatemala's presidential elections in 2007, 2011, and 2015. He won in the 2019 election, and assumed office on 14 January 2020.
With an HPI of 53.14, Rafael Carrera is the 6th most famous Guatemalan Politician. His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.
José Rafael Carrera y Turcios (24 October 1814 – 14 April 1865) was the president of Guatemala from 1844 to 1848 and from 1851 until his death in 1865, after being appointed President for life in 1854. During his military career and presidency, new nations in Central America were facing numerous problems: William Walker's invasions, liberal attempts to overthrow the Catholic Church and aristocrats' power, the Civil War in the United States, Mayan uprising in the east, Belize boundary dispute with the United Kingdom, and the wars in Mexico under Benito Juarez. This led to a rise of caudillos, a term that refers to charismatic populist leaders among the indigenous people.Backed by the Catholic Church, conservatives of the Aycinena clan led by Juan José de Aycinena y Piñol, and mestizo and indigenous peasants, he dominated politics in the first three decades of Guatemala's independence more than any other individual. He led the revolt against the liberal state government of Mariano Galvez in Guatemala, and then was instrumental in breaking up the Federal Republic of Central America that the liberals wanted. As a result, once the liberals took over power in Guatemala in 1871, Carrera's character and regime were dismissed and demonized, making him look as an illiterate who could not even write his own name and was a puppet of the aristocrats. Over the years, even Marxist writers who wanted to show how the native Guatemalans have been exploited by the elites completely ignored Carrera's interest in them and accused him of racism and being a "little king".
With an HPI of 51.95, Otto Pérez Molina is the 7th most famous Guatemalan Politician. His biography has been translated into 43 different languages.
Otto Fernando Pérez Molina (born 1 December 1950) is a Guatemalan politician and retired general, who was President of Guatemala from 2012 to 2015. Standing as the Patriotic Party (Partido Patriota) candidate, he lost the 2007 presidential election but prevailed in the 2011 presidential election. During the 1990s, before entering politics, he served as Director of Military Intelligence, Presidential Chief of Staff under President Ramiro de León Carpio, and as chief representative of the military for the Guatemalan Peace Accords. On being elected President, he called for the legalization of drugs.On 2 September 2015, beset by corruption allegations and having been stripped of his immunity by Congress the day earlier, Pérez presented his resignation. He was arrested on 3 September 2015. Perez has remained in custody since his 2015 arrest.
With an HPI of 51.48, Juan José Arévalo is the 8th most famous Guatemalan Politician. His biography has been translated into 20 different languages.
Juan José Arévalo Bermejo (10 September 1904 – 8 October 1990) was a Guatemalan professor of philosophy who became Guatemala's first democratically elected president in 1945. He was elected following a popular uprising against the United States-backed dictator Jorge Ubico that began the Guatemalan Revolution. He remained in office until 1951, surviving 25 coup attempts. He did not contest the election of 1951, instead choosing to hand over power to Jacobo Árbenz. As president, he enacted several social reform policies, including an increase in the minimum wage and a series of literacy programs. He also oversaw the drafting of a new constitution in 1945.
With an HPI of 50.12, Manuel Estrada Cabrera is the 9th most famous Guatemalan Politician. His biography has been translated into 19 different languages.
Manuel José Estrada Cabrera (21 November 1857 – 24 September 1924) was the President of Guatemala from 1898 to 1920. A lawyer with no military background, he was a strong ruler (dictator) who modernised the country's industry and transportation infrastructure, but only via granting concessions to the American-owned United Fruit Company, whose influence on the government was deeply unpopular among the population. Estrada Cabrera used increasingly brutal methods to assert his authority, including armed strike-breaking, and he effectively controlled the general elections. He retained power for 22 years through controlled elections in 1904, 1910, and 1916, and was eventually removed from office when the national assembly declared him mentally incompetent, and he was jailed for corruption.
With an HPI of 49.91, Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes is the 10th most famous Guatemalan Politician. His biography has been translated into 19 different languages.
General José Miguel Ramón Ydígoras Fuentes (17 October 1895 – 27 October 1982) was the conservative President of Guatemala from 1958 to March 1963. He was also the main challenger to Jacobo Árbenz during the 1950 presidential election. He had previously served as the governor of the province of San Marcos.
Pantheon has 29 people classified as politicians born between 1804 and 1969. Of these 29, 10 (34.48%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living politicians include Alejandro Giammattei, Otto Pérez Molina, and Alejandro Maldonado. The most famous deceased politicians include Jacobo Árbenz, Efraín Ríos Montt, and Carlos Castillo Armas. As of April 2022, 4 new politicians have been added to Pantheon including Justo Rufino Barrios, Enrique Peralta Azurdia, and Fruto Chamorro.
1956 - Present
1950 - Present
1936 - Present
1951 - Present
1946 - Present
1942 - Present
1969 - Present
1945 - Present
1951 - Present
1968 - Present
1913 - 1971
1926 - 2018
1914 - 1957
1878 - 1946
1814 - 1865
1904 - 1990
1857 - 1924
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1930 - 2016
1924 - 2006
1835 - 1885
1946 - 2018
Which Politicians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 19 most globally memorable Politicians since 1700.