The Legal 500

Share this page

Editorial

Politically, the year 2015 has been an exceptional one for Guatemala. A month after the resignation and arrest of former president Otto Perez Molina amid a corruption scandal involving a multimillion-dollar customs scam (known as ‘La Línea’), Jimmy Morales, a political newcomer and former TV comedian with no prior experience in government, was elected president with an overwhelming 72% of the vote in the country’s October 2015 elections.

The arrest of Otto Perez Molina in particular, and other steps taken towards the dismantling of organised crime, are generally seen by the public as a landmark moment in the country’s path towards a modern democracy. It has certainly sent a positive signal that Guatemala’s justice system was not only willing but also able to take on the battle against corruption (albeit with support from international counter impunity commission, CICIG). Many hope that this in turn will lead to an increased willingness to invest in the country.

Unsurprisingly, the country’s tax administration has subsequently been undergoing extensive overhaul with recent proposals for a new Tax and Customs Administrative Tribunal. While the re-doubling of the fight against tax crime is generally positive for the country’s image, companies also fear the criminalisation of tax matters. In the legal services sector, while on the one hand recent events may create more work, in the short term, many lawyers are also wary that this tougher stance and a heightened mistrust in tax officials may have a negative effect on trade, and ultimately add to the regulatory obligations required of companies.

Regardless of these recent events, Guatemala -the largest and most populous of the Central American economies- has maintained relatively robust economic performance. After a GDP rise of 4.2% in 2014, which marked the highest rate of growth since the beginning of the decade, Central Bank figures show growth of 3.9% in 2015 (predicted to contract slightly further, to 3.7%, in 2016). Due to its long history of macroeconomic stability (even during political crises), and successive governments’ commitment to fulfilling public debt obligations, Fitch Ratings recently rated Guatemala at BB Stable.

The country’s economic outlook is closely linked to that of the US, Guatemala’s biggest trading partner by far. The US is also the greatest source of remittances and the growth of these returns, which contributes to consumer demand, surged in the first quarter of 2016, marking the strongest gains for nearly eight years.

Despite the local banking sector also being under scrutiny with some banks accused of being involved in money laundering, the banking and finance sector remains stable. Its consolidation has remained very gradual over the years and local banks maintain their leadership in terms of market share in what is a highly competitive market. Recent trends include renewed interest in structured products and a revival in the demand for aircraft finance, and there is optimism that there will be a flow of infrastructure projects developed under private public partnerships (PPP), which will create considerable finance-side activity. Elsewhere, Guatemala’s microfinance sector is expanding rapidly, and recent parliamentary regulation of the sector should encourage further growth in the industry. By contrast, a controversial credit card law (sanctioned by then acting-president Alejandro Maldonado) which limited the interest rates charged by credit card issuers, took effect in March, only to be suspended less than a month later by the Guatemalan Constitutional Court. While the law was intended to protect people from going into debt, its net effect –either due to loss of credit access or a behavioural shift– was to reduce spending.

The IP market has grown steadily since industrial property legislation was enacted 16 years ago. Most recently, accession to the Trademark Law Treaty administered by the WIPO was approved by Guatemalan congress and came into force in March 2016. Implementation of the treaty will simplify and expedite the filing of trade mark registrations.

With criminal/white-collar cases on the rise, many law firms are seeking to bolster their dispute resolution practices. Issues around corruption and impunity have caused not only individuals but also regional and large family businesses to seek legal advisors in relation to matters such as fraud, white collar crime, theft and cybercrime. Traditionally the larger commercial law firms in Guatemala did not focus on establishing criminal practices within the firm but chose to subcontract due to both cost and security preoccupations. As in other countries, for example Mexico, this landscape is beginning to change, with many firms making lateral hires or trying to develop criminal practices from the bottom up.

The Guatemalan legal market has not remained aloof from the trend towards regionalisation in Central America. In this context, key movements include local firm Asensio, Andrade & Asociados’ incorporation as the Guatemalan office of emerging regional player García & Bodán; local powerhouse Mayora & Mayora, S.C.’s first foray abroad with the opening of an office in Honduras; and indications that Lexincorp is seeking to more fully and efficiently integrate the firm’s services in the region with the appointment of a regional director. These moves come in the wake of Costa Rican heavyweight Pacheco Coto’s absorption of the former Guatemalan office of ACZALAW, Abogados Centroamericanos Asociados, and leading local firm Arenales & Skinner-Klée’s incorporation into regional alliance LatamLex, in 2013 and 2014 respectively. With another Costa Rican heavyweight, BLP, also circling the Guatemalan market with an eye to complete its regional presence, it is unlikely that the current wave of regional consolidation is over. Beyond these movements, the market features both those firms that have already obtained a regional presence, such as Aguilar Castillo Love, Arias & Muñoz, Central Law Guatemala and Consortium Legal, as well as proudly independent local champions, including QIL+4 Abogados, Carrillo y Asociados and Comte & Font – Legalsa. Meanwhile, a number of firms find themselves under scrutiny due to revelations emerging from the so-called ‘Panama Papers’.

Interview with...

Law firm managing partners and practice heads explain how their firms are adapting to clients' changing needs

Press releases

The latest news direct from law firms. If you would like to submit press releases for your firm, send an email request to

Legal Developments worldwide

Legal Developments and updates from the leading lawyers in each jurisdiction. To contribute, send an email request to
  • FINANCIAL LEASING LAW

    The Law regulating Financial Leasing and the activities of Financial Leasing Companies of 2016 (L.72 (I) / 2016) (the “Law”) came into force on April 28 th , 2016.
  • Worldwide Freezing and Tracing of Assets through Cyprus Courts

    Cyprus courts have jurisdiction to issue interim orders relating to the worldwide freezing or tracing of assets, whether in the context of main proceedings or in aid of foreign litigation or arbitration proceedings.
  • New insolvency regime

    An overview of the new insolvency regime
  • A new WCC department within the Metropolitan Public Prosecution Office

    As of September 1st 2016, a newly established special department, dedicated solely to white collar crimes, has commenced its work within the Hungarian Metropolitan Public Prosecution Office (Fővárosi Főügyészség). read more...
  • EU: News on linking from the CJEU

    The CJEU already had the chance to rule on the legitimacy (under copyright law) of hyperlinks to copyrighted works in the Svensson (C-466/12) and Bestwater (C-348/13) cases. In both cases the court came to the conclusion that hyperlinks to copyrighted works freely available on another website are not "communications to the public" (ie a "new public") and therefore do not require the consent of the right holders. read more...
  • Bulgaria takes steps to implement Directive 2014/104/EU

    On 2 September 2016, the Bulgarian Commission for Protection of Competition proposed a draft act for amendments (the "Draft") to the Competition Protection Act (the "CPA"). These amendments aim to implement Directive 2014/104/EU of the European Parliament and the Council of 26 November 2014, on certain rules governing actions for damages under national law, for infringements of competition law provisions of Member States, and of the European Union (the "Directive"). read more...
  • Cyprus Partnerships Limited by Shares

    A recent amendment to the Partnerships and Business Names Law, Cap. 116 (the “Law’’), has introduced significant changes to the legal framework on partnerships. The most important amendment is the introduction of a new type of limited partnership, the partnership limited by shares.
  • OBTAINING THE TAX RESIDENCY STATUS IN CYPRUS

    According to the Income Tax Law of 2002 (“the Law”) an individual is resident in Cyprus, if he/she resides therein for a period which in aggregate exceeds 183 days.  Consequently, if an individual is physically present in Cyprus for more than 183 days in a tax year, he/she will be considered tax resident of Cyprus in that tax year.  On the other hand, if an individual is physically present in Cyprus for less than 183 days in a tax year, then he/she will be regarded to be non-tax resident of Cyprus in a tax year.
  • A closer look at the new Thailand-India Tax Treaty

    23 Aug 2016 at 04:00 / NEWSPAPER SECTION: BUSINESS
  • سمو الأمير يصدر قانون الوسائط البحرية

    بتاريخ 23/8/2016 أصدر سمو الأمير تميم بن حمد آل ثاني أمير دولة قطر القانون رقم (8) لسنة 2016 بشأن الوسائط البحرية، وقد تضمن القانون المذكور العديد من النقاط الهامة بخصوص تنظيم ضوابط منح رخص قيادة الوسائط البحرية ومعايير واشتراطات إجراء المعاينات والتفتيش على الوسائط البحرية، حيث نص القانون في مادته الثالثة على أنه يشترط لتسجيل الوسيطة البحرية ما يلي: أن تكون مزودة بالأجهزة الملاحية وأجهزة الاتصالات والألوان والأنوار وإشارات الاستغاثة والمعدات والأدوات اللازمة لتحقيق شروط الأمن والسلامة التي صدر بها قرار من الوزير (وزير المواصلات والاتصالات) وأن تجتاز الفحص اللازم لذلك وأن يقدم المالك للإدارة المختصة وثيقة تأمين صادرة من إحدى شركات التأمين الوطنية تتضمن تعويض الغير عما يلحق به من أضرار، كما نصت كذلك ذات المادة على أنه إذا كان مالك الوسيطة غير قطري، فيجب أن تكون إقامته سارية، وقد أتاح القانون الحق لوزير المواصلات والاتصالات بموجب قرار يصدر منه إضافة شروط أخرى لتسجيل الوسيطة البحرية أو الاستثناء من بعض هذه الشروط وذلك بصفة دائمة أو مؤقته، وقد وضع المشرع بموجب هذا القانون كذلك شرطاً إضافياً تمثل في أنه في حالة صنع الوسيطة أو تملكها خارج الدولة فإنه يجوز بعد الاطلاع على المستندات المتعلقة بها، منح المالك أو المستود شهادة تسجيل مؤقت لتمكينه من إدخالها إلى الدولة لمعاينتها. كما تضمنت المادة الرابعة من القانون حظر إنشاء أو إدارة مراكز أو مدارس لتعليم قيادة الوسائط البحرية، إلا بعد الحصول على ترخيص من الإدارة المختصة وهي الوحدة الإدارية المختصة بوزارة المواصلات والاتصالات، وقد أناط القانون بوزير المواصلات والاتصالات سلطة منح تراخيص مراكز ومدارس تعليم قيادة الوسائط البحرية، وأناط به تحديد شروط وضوابط منح هذه التراخيص ومدتها ونظم التعليم والتدريب وحالات سحب تلك الرخص من الأشخاص الذين صرح لهم بالحصول عليها، وقد أشارت المادة التاسعة من القانون بأن يتولى وزير الاتصالات والمواصلات بموجب قرار يصدر منه وذلك بعد التنسيق مع الجهات المختصة، وهي كل جهة ذات اختصاص متصل بالوسائط البحرية قانوناً بحسب الأحوال، الضوابط اللازمة لتسيير المركبة العائمة متضمنة حمولتها وعدد البحارة المصرح لهم بالتواجد على متنها، ووزن الأمتعة المسموح بها، وفقاً لفئة كل منها، وقد تضمنت ذات المادة النص على وجوب التزام مالك أو مستخدم الوسيطة البحرية بالضوابط المشار إليها في الفقرة السابقة، وقد قرر القانون عقوبة قدرها عشرة آلاف ريال على كل من يخالف أحكام المادة التاسعة المشار إليها، وقد تضمن القانون أحكام وضوابط أخرى بشأن تنظيم تسيير الوسائط البحرية واشتراطات الأمن والسلامة وتوفيق أوضاع المالكيين الحاليين للوسائط البحرية وهو ما سوف نتناوله في مقالنا القادم بإذن الله.

Press Releases worldwide

The latest news direct from law firms. If you would like to submit press releases for your firm, send an email request to