Q: The current economic boom in Latin America seems to omit Central America. What is the reason for that?
A: I think we have had two problems recently. First, there are some concerns about the security situation, which is connected with the drug trafficking issue. Second, there [is a gap] in terms of human development indicators and infrastructure. But things are changing right now and some countries, such as Guatemala, are improving their security situation and increasing investments into human development and infrastructure.
Q: Earlier this year, Otto Pérez Molina, Guatemala’s president, went as far as describing these changes as signs of a “new era” for the country. What exactly has changed since he took office in 2012?
A: There are three main changes that Guatemala has seen. We have invested more in tackling malnutrition, which has been one of the country's ongoing problems. That is one area in which we are trying to make progress and are achieving certain goals.
We have also been continuing our efforts to substantially reduce the homicide rate and gain control over certain urban areas of Guatemala City, which were particularly violent.
What is also important is the fact that we are trying to improve our economic environment. We are passing regulations that will encourage less red tape. We are using the World Economic Forum’s Competitiveness Index as a benchmark and we are trying to improve our position in that ranking. This year, we will also be more strongly committed to the issue of transparency and fighting corruption. Providing services in the security sector, as well as the equipment connected to that, is a potential business opportunity for foreign investors.
Q: In 2010, in a report on investment opportunities in Guatemala, the UN Conference on Trade and Development stated that the country has a great potential to develop its mining sector, but that the legal framework needs to be reformed. Has the situation changed since then?
A: We are trying to pass a new mining law in Guatemala. We want to [foster] a greater commitment within the industry with regard to the issues of social and ecological responsibility.
Across Latin America [we expect to see] more and more laws enforcing social and environmental responsibility. If we do not provide these rules today, someone radical in the future could come up with some 'funny' ideas. That is why we are trying to do it, [to make the country] more business friendly. The president is trying to make it one of the top priorities for the first half of 2013, but we will see how it evolves. Passing it through a legislative branch is a completely different story.
Q: In terms of economic integration, which treaties and entities do you consider as particularly relevant for Guatemalan development?
A: The Central American Common Market, because we have had that structure since the 1960s, therefore it is well solidified and its institutions are functional. You can export things within Central America very easily.
In the future, the Pacific Alliance will play a very important role, creating links between Chile, Peru, Colombia, Mexico and observing countries, which are Guatemala, Panama and Costa Rica.
In terms of bilateral relations, we are going to dramatically improve our relationship with Mexico. There is a strong commitment from the governments of both countries to do so, especially when it comes to creating a sound economic development between the south of Mexico and Guatemala.
We are also going to develop our relationship with El Salvador. Together, we can create a sizeable market that can be attractive to investors who want to sell their products in Central America or export it to the US.