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Wikileaks: Guatemala as a “buffer” between “Central/South America and the NAFTA space”

May 9, 2011

Wikileaks has released additional cables from the US Embassy in Guatemala. 04GUATEMALA3270, dated 27 December 2007, reports on the visit of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Latin American specialist Carl Meacham to Guatemala and his meetings with staff from the Ministries of Foreign Relations, Immigration, and Defense. Officials discussed the Mexico-Guatemala border and “the current role of Guatemala as a “buffer” between Central/South America and the NAFTA space and how that role can be expanded to improve U.S. security.” Guatemalan officials at the meetings stressed the central place Guatemala plays in North American security and called for greater cooperation between Guatemalan security agencies and between these and their Mexican and American counterparts.

Guatemala as a "buffer" between "Central/South America and NAFTA Space"

The US delegation payed a visit to the Guatemala-Mexico border and was able to see how porous it is first-hand. As government officials looked on, “goods and people were transported by raft across the river in a highly-organized and heavily-used pattern.” Mexican and Guatemalan officials posted at the border declared that they had little contact with each other and did not have a formalized system of information-sharing.

Guatemalan officials offered some explanation for the low level of border security, citing a lack of resources, and especially the lack of well-trained and capable officers in the various departments charged with ensuring security, including the National Civilian Police (PNC), the military, and Immigration Services. There is, in addition, a lack of equipment to patrol the border—the cable stated that “Guatemala has only one helicopter and five pick-up trucks to patrol the entire border with Mexico.”

The cable also lamented the lack of equipment to “manage formal migration” and maintain “accurate and retrievable records.” For example, after migrants are deported from the US, “no photographic or biometric information is collected that could be used either to prevent their reentry into the U.S. or to aid future law enforcement efforts locally.” As a result, Embassy staff recognized the need to provide “transportation, communications, and information systems
equipment such as biometric recording, database archives, and wiretap equipment (should wiretap authority be granted legally).”

Officials also inquired about the possibility of obtaining US funding to “reorient” the Guatemalan military’s mission. The cable cited joint military-PNC patrols in high crime areas as an example of “the reorientation of the standard military mission.”

The cable concludes with US officials’ comments that it was in the interests of the US to ” help Guatemalan security agencies develop human capacity to improve border security.” In the longer term, the US must remain committed to “developing a liberal democratic society, including respect for the rule of law and an end of impunity in regard to corruption.”

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