The material on this site is for financial institutions, professional investors and their professional advisers. It is for information only. Please read our Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy and Cookies before using this site. Please see our Subscription Terms and Conditions.

All material subject to strictly enforced copyright laws. © 2021 Euromoney, a part of the Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC.

Guatemala: Crisis? What crisis?

Willy Zapata, Guatemala’s head of banking supervision, is not easily shaken. When Euromoney met him late in the evening recently, his offices were under siege from angry depositors in the second bank to collapse in as many months. Armed guards barred the gates.

In October 2006 Bancafé, the country’s fourth-largest bank, fell – at least partly a victim of the Refco scandal. Just as the country was recovering, executives from a smaller institution, Banco de Comercio, the country’s 15th-largest onshore institution, "handed the bank’s keys" to the supervisor and went on the run. This somewhat undermined their initial claims that the collapse was a result of customer jitters in the wake of the Bancafé failure.

Political embarrassments aside – Bancafé had close links to president Oscar Berger – the double collapse has raised questions about systemic problems in the industry. In less than three months, two banks, two non-bank finance companies and a stockbrokerage had collapsed. At the end of November 2006 there was also a run on deposits triggered by unsubstantiated rumours of intervention at the second-largest bank, Banco G&T Continental. In a further blow to public confidence, during the first week of December, ATMs started to run out of cash and banks limited withdrawals because they had too few notes. It was perhaps this that prompted Euromoney’s taxi driver to claim that the biggest problem in Guatemala (which, among other big problems, has one of the highest murder rates in the world) was that "no-one has any confidence in the banking system".

You have reached premium content. Please log in to continue reading.

Read beyond the headlines with Euromoney

For over 50 years, our readers have looked to Euromoney to stay informed about the issues that matter in the international banking and financial markets. Find out more about our different levels of access below.


Unlimited access to and

Expert comment, long reads and in-depth analysis interviews with senior finance professionals

Access the results of our market-leading annual surveys across core financial services

Access the results of our annual awards, including the world-renowned Awards for Excellence

Your print copy of Euromoney magazine delivered monthly

£73.75 per month

Billed Annually


Unlimited access to and, including our top stories, long reads, expert analysis, and the results of our annual surveys and awards

Sign up to any of our newsletters, curated by our editors


Already a user?

We use cookies to provide a personalized site experience.
By continuing to use & browse the site you agree to our Privacy Policy.
I agree