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2004-08-20 16:51:00
Embassy Guatemala
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Sensitive But Unclassified - entire text.

2. Summary: Staffdel Shank,s three-day visit to Guatemala
gave the Congressional visitors an updated picture of the
Guatemalan reality, through meetings with key GOG and private
sector interlocutors. The GOG representatives emphasized the
Berger Administration,s accomplishments in the areas of
military downsizing/modernization, anti-corruption, and tax
reform. Human rights activists were less positive about
changes in the Guatemala military but conceded the goodwill
of the Berger Administration. Site visits to an Air Force
base, a high-crime area, and a police station gave the
visitors a first-hand look at the lack of resources that
constrain Guatemalan counternarcotics and public security
programs. The message about resource constraints was
reinforced in an Embassy briefing on counternarcotics/alien
smuggling and in a meeting with the Guatemalan Minister of
Government. End Summary.

3. House Appropriations Committee, Foreign Operations
Subcommittee (HACFO) Majority Clerk John Shank, HACFO
Minority Staffer Mark Murray, and H Legislative Management
Officer Steve Marchese visited Guatemala on August 10-12 to
review U.S. assistance programs and meet with Guatemalan
government and private sector representatives. Staffdel
Shank,s program included a Country Team briefing, reception
with civil and private Sector figures, respective meetings
with the Guatemalan Vice President (which featured a 10
minute conversation with President Berger), Minister of
Defense, and Minister of Government (Interior), and lunch
with human rights activists. Meetings with the Guatemalan
Transparency Coalition and Congressional leadership ) along
with in-house briefings on AID, counternarcotics and
trafficking programs - rounded out the Staffdel program.

4. Following a meeting with the Embassy Country Team, the
Staffdel traveled to the Presidential Palace, where Vice
President Stein told the staffers that military downsizing
was complete. Repeating points made by Ambassador Hamilton
in the Country Team meeting, the Vice President noted that:
a) the reduction of the military budget to .033 percent of
GDP was twice the .066 figure stipulated in the peace
accords; the size of the military had been reduced by 66
percent since 1997 ) twice the 33 percent reduction mandated
by the peace accords; and that the new military doctrine had
been developed through a process that included widespread and
in-depth consultations with the Guatemalan civil sector.
Stein also mentioned efforts to investigate military
corruption and promote transparency, citing as an example the
Attorney General,s sequestration of all military accounting

records from the past four years.

5. In discussing assistance for the military, the Vice
President was enthusiastic about the possibilities of taking
advantage of the Excess Defense Article (EDA) program and
told the staffers that Guatemala intended to seek access to
EDA. He also made a heartfelt pitch for release of old MAP
funds. Stein reiterated that the GOG was committed to
CICIACS (the international commission to investigate
clandestine groups) and was optimistic about gaining UN
support for a redrafted agreement, although he was less
confident about Congressional prospects. At the end of the
meeting, Stein led the meeting participants in brief drop by
on President Berger, who was extremely cordial.

6. In their first meeting on Day 2 of the visit, the
staffers traveled to Aurora International Airport for a
briefing by the Defense Minister and walk-through inspection
of military aviation assets. Defense Minister General Mendez
began with a presentation that detailed the downsizing of the
armed forces over the past seven years, including tables of
personnel strengths, and maps of unit deployments, during
this time frame. Mendez also explained how the Guatemalan
military had shifted from a territorial deployment structure
(consisting of military regions and detachments that covered
the entire country) to one based on a functional structure
(of regional infantry brigades with a pending rapid
deployment capability). After describing ongoing reforms in
military administration and the military personnel system,
General Mendez noted the various measures taken by the
military, and the Guatemalan government in general, to assist
demobilized personnel, and stated that the demobilization had
been voluntary (i.e. with sufficient candidates to avoid the
need for involuntary separations).

7. Air Force Commander General Santamarina led the visitors
on an inspection of Guatemalan Air Force assets, including
UH-1 helicopters, A-37 attack aircraft, and turboprop C-47
and King Air transport aircraft. The staffers learned that
all A-37s were grounded due to damaged (crystallized)
windscreens. Almost all of the helicopters, and the majority
of the remaining aircraft, were also grounded. General
Santamarina presented several anecdotes that described how
resource constraints hindered military effectiveness in
supporting counternarcotics police units.

8. The staffers, second site visit occurred in Villa Nueva,
a poor, gang and crime-infested neighborhood in the northern
part of the capital, and the location of an AID-funded
justice center and a NAS-funded police investigators center.
The staffers toured a local police precinct station,
obtaining a first-hand look at the dismal state of police
readiness and equipment given the size of the community.

9. A lunch with several prominent human rights activists
(including Helen Mack) focused on issues of importance for
the activists, namely transparency in the military budget,
the need for long-term planning with respect to military
downsizing and justice sector reform, the need for
substantive government action on human rights cases, and the
need for land reform to address inequalities in wealth
distribution. Mario Polanco of the Mutual Support Group
(GAM) revealed that the military had turned over thousands of
documents from the files of the dismantled Estado Mayor
Presidencial. The PDH had in turn sought staff support for
the GAM to photocopy the files. This work had been going on
for seven months and &hundreds of thousands of pages8 had
been photocopied so far, Polanco said, but no analytical work
on the documents had yet been conducted.

10. CICIACS was one of the principal themes in the meeting
with Transparency Commissioner Fuentes and other
representatives from the Transparency Coalition. In the wake
of the Constitutional Court decision that struck down several
of its key provisions, Fuentes announced that the GOG planned
to analyze the agreement and then negotiate with the UN to
reach agreement on an acceptable substitute. Transparency
Commission representatives then discussed the roles of their
various organizations, and Fuentes explained that the Supreme
Court received a large number of anonymous reports about
misconduct by members of the government. All of the reports
were investigated, Fuentes said. Of these, he claimed that
70 percent were verified and 30 percent were found to be

11. Newly-appointed Minister of Government Vielmann gave the
visitors a discourse on the problems of the police and
justice sector, much of the blame for which he laid on the
previous government. Vielmann sketched out several goals,
most notably improvement of the Police Academy curriculum and
training as part of a general enhancement of police
professionalism, strengthening of the administrative capacity
of the police, and fighting corruption within the ranks of
the police. The Minister averred that Guatemala faced
serious threats from organized crime, drug trafficking,
international terrorism, and other forms of transnational
crime. He wanted to avoid a &Colombianization8 of
Guatemala, pledged to work closely with the Embassy in
combating drug and people trafficking, and welcomed any
possible assistance from the U.S. Government.

12. During an informal dinner at the DCM,s residence, law
enforcement and military members of the Country Team
described Guatemalan counternarcotics and anti-trafficking
efforts, with emphasis on the cooperation of GOG authorities
in repatriation of third country illegal aliens intercepted
on the high seas. The staffers were also briefed on the
nature of drug transits through Guatemala, a phenomenon that
has left graveyards of wrecked and abandoned smuggling
aircraft throughout the Peten region. Country Team members
also informed the staffers about the extensive maritime alien
smuggling pipeline from Ecuador to Guatemala and highlighted
Embassy concerns about the vulnerability to exploitation of
this and other channels by Special Interest Aliens.

13. At a breakfast with congressional leadership hosted by
the Ambassador, staffers heard concerns from the left (ANN
congresswoman Nineth Montenegro) and the right (FRG
congressman Antonio Arenales) about how Guatemala could best
deal with its crime problem. Congressional leader Jorge
Mendez (GANA party) spoke about how inexperienced and divided
the Congress was and how difficult that made passage of
important legislation. National Defense Committee Chairman
Armando Paniagua spoke about the pressing need to improve
Guatemala,s capabilities to act against international crime,
including drug traffickers and alien smugglers.

14. The Staffdel did not have the opportunity to see this
report before departing Guatemala.