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2005-04-08 16:06:00
Embassy Guatemala
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081606Z Apr 05
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 GUATEMALA 000888 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/05/2015

REF: 2004 GUATEMALA 02165

REASON: 1.4 (A) AND (B)

1. This is an action request: See paras 8 and 9.

2. (C) Summary: Supported by civil society and the
mainstream media, the Guatemalan community in the U.S. has
from the outset of the Berger administration brought acute
pressure on the Government of Guatemala to be assertive with
us on the community's behalf. For its part, and largely
because it has been seeking the impossible (e.g., Temporary
Protected Status or TPS), the Berger government is
increasingly frustrated by its lack of success. Against this
backdrop, and because it is deeply humiliating to
Guatemalans, the Minutemen phenomenon in Arizona is making
management of this issue immensely difficult. In finally
agreeing to vote with us on the Cuba resolution at Geneva,
for example, Berger and FM Briz implied that their
willingness to support us on issues like this in the future
will depend on getting something from us - even if it is a
political statement that just recognizes how important the
subject is - on immigration. I have some ideas for
consideration in paras 8 and 9. End Summary.

3. (C) Immigration has been on the Berger government's agenda
with us from day one. It is partly a problem that Berger
himself exacerbated, by taking his campaign for the
presidency to the Guatemalan community in the U.S.
(Guatemalans residing abroad cannot vote, but Berger's
thinking was that they would influence votes back home and he
was probably right.) He has raised the issue repeatedly with
me and has sought to raise it directly with the President -
most prominently in a letter of last August that was answered
by an instruction to me to give him an oral response.
Feeling that he had been thwarted by the Embassy, the
Department and NSC from making his case to the President,
Berger raised the subject with Governor Bush in a visit to
Florida in which he publicly endorsed Miami's candidacy to be
the FTAA secretariat. He almost certainly would have raised
it with Secretary Rumsfeld here March 24 had I not persuaded
him in advance that it would be inappropriate to venture so
far outside DOD's area of responsibilities.

4. (C) And now comes the Minutemen phenomenon. It is almost
impossible to overstate the damage it is doing. The media
has been saturated with the subject. Guatemalans feel deeply
humiliated by what they have been seeing on TV and hearing on
the radio. Even in the midst of the intense coverage given
to the Pope's death and funeral, the leading Guatemalan
newspapers have editorialized in agonized, offended tones.
Op-ed writers of left, right and center are finding in our
inability to put a stop to the "hunting" of their
co-nationals echoes of U.S. "imperial behavior" of an era

long past. No amount of publicity that we might arrange of
our support for democracy, human rights, poverty reduction
and a dozen other worthy causes we work here day in and day
out has punch enough to offset the injury. Guatemalans did
note that both the President and the Secretary have
disassociated the USG from the Minutemen, but the positive
effect has faded as the coverage has continued undiminished.

5. (C) Another element in this mix was the long struggle to
get adequate IPR legislation (on data protection) restored
and the disruptive protests that the left has organized
against CAFTA. Despite what we think is its progressive
record on social issues, the Berger government feels
vulnerable to the left's persistent harping that it is
governing for the benefit of the rich - domestic and foreign
(i.e., U.S. transnationals).

6. (C) It thus became difficult to keep government officials
on the subject when, even as the smell of tear gas was still
in the air and coverage of the Minutemen was grabbing the
public's attention, I began to demarche the government on the
Cuba resolution. I got somewhat the same reaction when I
last raised Congressional ratification of the Article 98
agreement signed last November. On Cuba, and under
instructions from Berger, Briz said his government feared
adding more fuel to the fire of its conflict with the
domestic left, especially given the appearance of U.S.
indifference to Guatemalan concerns. He raised three issues:
drugs, military modernization and immigration. My review of
what we've done for the Guatemalans lately in the first two
areas succeeded more or less in neutralizing them.

7. (C) But it is immigration that bothers the government most
and it was this subject to which Briz repeatedly returned,
pleading that we give the government "something" to help it
manage this issue. Acknowledging that the President's
statements on immigration reform at Crawford March 23 were
very positive, Briz said no one in Guatemala, however, puts
those statements into anything but a U.S.-Mexican context.
Briz also lamented (for the umpteenth time) that Guatemala
feels aggrieved that El Salvador and Honduras - but not
Guatemala - have TPS. I walked Briz yet again through the
reasons why TPS for Guatemala could not be justified, which
was useful because it led him to comment that even a purely
political U.S. statement would be of great help - provided
that it came from a high-level Washington official and made
specific mention of Guatemala. In finally agreeing to vote
yes on the Cuba resolution, Briz reiterated his plea for a
public statement on immigration. And in the typically
elliptical way that officials on lighter side of an
asymmetrical relationship have of expressing themselves, he
intimated that his ability to support us on issues like this
in the future would depend on how responsive we can be to
their concerns on immigration.

8.(C) Comment and action request: I do not think it is wise
to let this issue continue to fester and, actually, in
seeking a public statement, Guatemala is not asking for all
that much. It seems to me that we could find an occasion to
make a public statement of the sort Briz is seeking. One
venue would be when he visits Washington - in about three
weeks time - and has a seventh floor appointment.

9. (C) There are two other possibilities: A) We understand
that the inter-agency group on remittances is about to broach
its interest in launching a pilot program on remittances with
the Guatemalan Government. This will probably be raised by
Treasury U/S Taylor directly with Minister of Finance Bonilla
at the World Bank/Fund Governors' meeting in Okinawa,Japan,
but we could also stage a public rollout when Briz goes to
Washington. B) Last year DOL and USDA signed letters of
agreement with the Government of Mexico to improve protection
of Mexican migrant workers in the U.S. via a joint outreach
program with the Mexican embassy and its consulates. At the
time (ref), we recommended looking at the possibility of like
agreements with Guatemala and the rest of Central America.
We repeat that suggestion now.