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The present day Republic of Guatemala (República de Guatemala) was claimed as Spanish territory in the 16th century, part of a larger region called the Captaincy General (Capitanía General de Guatemala). In 1821, the entire Captaincy (Chiapas, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras) proclaimed its independence from Spain, and later joined the Mexican Empire. All but Chiapas soon separated from Mexico, however, forming the United Provinces of Central America, but this too separated into nations by 1840.
From 1898 until 1944, Guatemala was ruled by a series of dictators, supported by the United Fruit Company whose financial interests in the nation were not inconsiderable. Democratic elections were held for the first time in 1944, following a coup d'etat led by military officers, and this led to a long period of support and assistance form the United States. Concerned over the emergence of socialist politics and revolutionary ideas in the region, the USA continued to provide training, military equipment and financial aid to the nation until the 1990s. Nevertheless, dissatisfaction with the right wing government, human rights abuses, racial and socio-economic discrimination spurred several insurgent movements to form and mount a guerilla movement against the government. The Guatemalan Civil War lasted from 1960 until 1996, and was marked by innumerable human rights abuses, particularly on the part of the government. A peace agreement was reached in December 1996, following which the United Nations deployed military observers to the country to monitor implementation of the process.
The Guatemalan Armed Forces consist of the Ejercito (Army), Armada (Navy), and the Fuerza Aeras (Air Force). Elite units include a brigade of paratroops, the Kaibiles (a Ranger-type special forces unit) and the Guatemalan Marines. Although following closely the uniform traditions of the United States, Guatemala has issued a few of its own camouflage patterns as well.
Guatemalan Camouflage Patterns
Presumably dating to the late 1970s, the Guatemalan Army did issue a duck hunter camouflage pattern loosely based on the US M1942 spot pattern of the Second World War. The Guatemalan pattern is very similar to that worn by Honduras during the same time period.
Guatemalan Special Forces (Kaibiles) and some elite infantry units were issued uniforms in the South Korean "waves" camouflage pattern issued to the ROK Special Forces. Although the fabric was identical to the Korean issue, the uniforms were produced on contract for the Guatemalan Army and are appropriately marked.
Another unique pattern to Guatemala is leaf design that appears to have taken the US m1948 ERDL drawings and stretched them out horizontally. For this reason, collectors have called it "elongated ERDL" or "stretched leaf" pattern, although locally it is believed to have been called hoja de platano (banana leaves) by some soldiers. Like the ROK swirl pattern, this camouflage seems to have been issued primarily to airborne, special forces and elite infantry units throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
The nation began faithfully reproducing the US m81 woodland camouflage pattern in the mid-1980s and has continued to issue uniforms in this pattern to the present era.
Special units of the Guatemalan Police wear the US tricolor desert camouflage pattern.
In 2007, Guatemala adopted a pixelated camouflage design, probably based on a US pattern but with a coloration unique to the Ejercito. Although in standard distribution with many units, the pattern has not yet fully replaced the woodland.
The Unidad Fuerzas Especiales (Special Forces Unit) of the Policia Nacional Civil (National Civil Police) are issued a pixelated camouflage design with a dark blue colorway. According to sources in Guatemala, this is the only Police unit to be issued the uniform.
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