Cryptocurrency Regulation in Guatemala Prior to 2024

Guatemala’s approach to cryptocurrency regulation prior to 2024 was characterized by a clear stance against recognizing these digital assets as legal tender, coupled with warnings about their use and the associated risks.

Non-recognition as Legal Tender

In December 2017, the acting President of the Bank of Guatemala, Sergio Recinos, clarified the country’s position on cryptocurrencies. He confirmed that cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin and other types, are not recognized as legal tender in Guatemala. According to the Guatemalan legislation, the Quetzal remains the national currency, and the Bank of Guatemala is the sole issuer of bills and coins within the national territory. This stance was rooted in the Monetary Law of Guatemala, which did not recognize virtual currencies as a currency or as foreign currency; thus, they did not constitute a legal means of payment​

​Warnings Issued by Authorities

Recinos also raised concerns over the potential misuse of cryptocurrencies. He pointed out that due to their anonymous nature, cryptocurrencies could be easily used for illicit activities such as money laundering, terrorism, drug purchases, and tax evasion, potentially to a higher degree than cash. He warned that cryptocurrencies are not backed by any government nor do they depend on a central bank issuer, meaning their value is not maintained over time. This led to an advisory for people to carefully examine the issue before deciding to invest in cryptocurrencies​

​Superintendency of Banks’ Announcement

In February 2021, the Superintendency of Banks in Guatemala made an official announcement regarding the status of cryptocurrencies. It stated that, in accordance with the Monetary Law, the Quetzal is the monetary unit of Guatemala, and only the Bank of Guatemala has the authority to issue currency in the Republic. As a result, virtual currencies were declared not to be legal tender in the country. The statement further clarified that virtual currencies were not supported by the State of Guatemala, were not considered foreign currency, and were not guaranteed. They could not be forced to be accepted as a means of payment in transactions of goods and services​

​Regulatory and Security Concerns

The Superintendency of Banks also highlighted that transactional platforms or persons engaged in the sale and marketing of virtual currencies in Guatemala were not under the supervision and inspection of the Superintendency of Banks. This lack of oversight meant that these platforms might not comply with security standards or risk mitigation processes, posing high risks for users. Moreover, many of these platforms were based in different international jurisdictions, making their regulation and supervision beyond the national legal system of Guatemala. The statement concluded by mentioning the high volatility in the price of virtual currencies and the risks associated with their anonymity, including their use in illicit operations like unauthorized fundraising, money laundering, and financing of terrorism​


In conclusion, prior to 2024, the legislative and regulatory environment for cryptocurrencies in Guatemala was marked by a clear non-recognition of these digital assets as legal tender, coupled with significant warnings about their use. The Guatemalan authorities expressed concerns about the potential for cryptocurrencies to be used in illicit activities and their high volatility, leading to advisories against their use without proper understanding and consideration of the risks involved. This period in Guatemala’s approach to cryptocurrencies can be seen as one of caution and apprehension, with a focus on protecting the financial system and its users from the uncertainties and risks associated with these emerging digital assets.

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