For a bit of background, before we delve into this next successful Lebanese politician and prominent member of the Lebanese diaspora, Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras to the east, El Salvador to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south.
With an estimated population of around 17.2 million, it is the most populated country in Central America. Guatemala is a representative democracy; its capital and largest city is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City.
The territory of modern Guatemala once formed the core of the Maya civilization, which extended across Mesoamerica. Guatemala attained independence in 1821 as part of the Federal Republic of Central America, which dissolved by 1841. And 150 years later, this intriguing little country had its first “Lebanese” President.
Serrano was born April 26, 1945 in Guatemala City as the son of Jorge Adán Serrano and Rosa Elías, who was of Lebanese descent. After attending school in Switzerland, he graduated in Industrial Engineering from the University of San Carlos.
He then attended Stanford University in California, U.S., where he studied economic growth and completed a Doctorate in Education and Science. He then returned to Guatemala to become a civil servant.
In 1976, he collaborated with various American Protestant churches to help the population recover from the devastating earthquake that had afflicted the country. He then published a document describing the miserable conditions under which the indigenous population lived, which resulted in his receiving threats.
He went into exile in the US, only returning in 1982 to work in the government of fellow evangelical General Efraín Ríos Montt as Vice President of the Advisory Board to the government.
In 1985, Serrano ran as a Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party of National Co-operation (PDCN) and the Revolutionary Party (PR), coming third with 12.6% of the vote. In September 1987, as the political parties’ representative, he became one of the four members of the National Reconciliation Commission (CNR).
Serrano became the Presidential candidate for the Solidarity Action Movement (MAS) in the 1990 Presidential Elections. He lost the first round on November 11 with 24.1% of the vote and won the second round against Jorge Carpio on January 6, 1991, with 68.1% of the vote.
On January 14, 1991, Serrano replaced Vinicio Cerezo as President of Guatemala. He was the second non-Catholic to gain power in Guatemala, after Ríos Montt. The transfer of power marked the first time in decades that an incumbent president had peacefully surrendered power to an elected opposition victor.
As his party gained only 18 of 116 seats in Congress, Serrano entered into a tenuous alliance with the Christian Democrats and Carpio’s National Union of the Center (UCN).
On May 25, 1993, Serrano sparked the 1993 Guatemalan constitutional crisis when he illegally suspended the constitution, dissolved Congress and the Supreme Court, imposed censorship, and tried to restrict civil freedoms, allegedly to fight corruption. In response to public pressure, Serrano resigned as president on June 1, 1993.
Serrano now resides in Panama with his wife Magda Bianchi de Serrano. He has a set of twin sons and a son named Juan Pablo Serrano, as well as two daughters. Jorge Serrano is involved in real estate as a developer and investor in Panama and the U.S. state of Florida.