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03GUATEMALA678 2003-03-14 17:27:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Guatemala
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 GUATEMALA 000678 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/12/2013

REF: STATE 64728

Classified By: Robert E. Copley for reason 1.5 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: In response to reftel points, MFA
Multilateral Affairs Director Castillo told us Guatemalan
positions at the UNHRC this year might differ from previous
years. On Cuba, Castillo repeated that President Portillo
would ultimately decide how the GOG will vote, but said the
decision would take into account improved GOG relations with
Cuba and recent U.S. decertification of Guatemala. On Iraq,
Castillo said Guatemala is highly vulnerable to oil shocks
and although the GOG understands that a peaceful solution may
not be possible, it fears the negative repercussions of
military action. On Middle East resolutions, Castillo said
the GOG was concerned about perceptions from past UNHRC
sessions that it is anti-Arab, and said votes at this session
would be more "balanced." Foreign Minister Gutierrez will
travel to Geneva after visiting Washington on Monday March

17. End Summary.

2. (C) Polcouns and Poloff discussed U.S. priorities for the
upcoming UN Human Rights Commission with Ministry of Foreign
Relations Director General for Multilateral Affairs,
Ambassador Giovanni Castillo on February 13. Castillo said
that the GOG shares the priority the USG places on human
rights and agrees with many of our priorities at the UNHRC.
He added that when we must disagree, we do so as friends. He
used this opening to point out that we may find less
agreement this year on Cuba, Iraq, and the Middle East
resolutions. Castillo expressed appreciation for information
on our positions but stated frankly that Guatemala did not
have the personnel resources to focus on all the issues,
citing the Zimbabwe resolution as an example.

3. (C) On Cuba, Castillo said the GOG has not yet decided on
its position, which will be determined by President Portillo
himself. Castillo pointed out that GOG cooperation with Cuba
has improved markedly in recent months. He mentioned the
Vice President's recent trip to the Island, the
just-concluded Ministerial with Cuban Foreign Minster Perez
Roque, and said that Portillo had received an invitation to
visit Cuba. Castillo stated that these closer ties with Cuba
were bound to have an impact on the President's decision, and
added that the USG decision to decertify Guatemala on
narcotics cooperation may also be a factor in the decision.

4. (C) On Iraq, Castillo said Guatemala hoped for a peaceful
resolution, though he said this did not mean the GOG would
oppose a military solution. He stressed that Guatemala
understood that military action might be inevitable, and
commented that the GOG is concerned about the possible
economic impact of hostilities on Guatemala. Castillo said
Guatemala is vulnerable to oil shocks and was already feeling
the strain of higher prices.

5. (C) On the Middle East resolutions, Castillo said the
GOG's position is evolving. He stated that the GOG was
increasingly worried about the perception that Guatemala is
anti-Arab and blindly supports Israel. Castillo said that
Arab delegations at the NAM summit in Malaysia had exerted
enormous pressure on the GOG representative to that meeting,
and that the Guatemalan delegation had returned concerned
that Guatemala is overly exposed on these issues. Castillo
hastened to add that the Ministry had been analyzing its
votes at the 58th UNHRC for some time. Castillo said that
Guatemala had paid a high price for some of its earlier
votes, and that its votes in the upcoming UNHRC would be more
"balanced." Polcouns commented that Guatemala's record at
the last UNHRC had been very positive, and had been noticed
by many in Washington as forward leaning on promoting human
rights in Cuba and the Middle East. This had earned the GOG
significant recognition in Washington, and we hoped that the
GOG could preserve that balance.

6. (C) Castillo identified North Korea as the issue where
our interest most fully overlap. Pressed for other issues of
interest to Guatemala at the UNHRC, Castillo said that three
reports related to Guatemala are scheduled to be presented
and added that the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants
are of perennial interest to Guatemala. Castillo informed us
that Foreign Minister Gutierrez would be traveling to Geneva
for the opening week of the UNHRC. He also noted that the
new GOG Ambassador Ricardo Alvarado would represent Guatemala
at this session. Castillo indicated that President Portillo
trusted Ambassador Alvarado fully, and Alvarado would have
significant discretion on many of the votes. He indicated
that on the more important votes (e.g. Cuba, Middle East,
Iraq), President Portillo was likely to make the decisions
himself, in consultation with Foreign Minister Gutierrez, UN
Permrep Rosenthal and Ambassador Alvarado.

7. (C) Comment: The decision on the Cuba vote will probably
be made at the very last minute by President Portillo
himself, and it is too soon to predict what factors will
ultimately influence that vote (the Ambassador has engaged
the Foreign Minister repeatedly on Cuba, most recently at the
CICIACS human rights announcement on March 13). Guatemala's
shift away from solid support for Israel may well be
influenced by new Foreign Minister Gutierrez's
pro-Palestinian sympathies. In the past Guatemala's votes
for Israel have not been driven by requests from us, but
rather were related to Israel's influence with the GOG. We
will engage the Israeli Embassy in Guatemala to seek a common
strategy for retaining GOG support for responsible votes on
the Middle East, and would welcome the engagement of others
to shore up Guatemala's traditional support for our positions
on resolutions involving the Middle East.