New President to Push for US Military Aid to Guatemala

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With former General Otto Perez set to assume Guatemala’s presidency on January 14, he has indicated that he will continue pushing for the resumption of military aid from the US.

Perez’s incoming foreign minister told the AP that Perez will lobby for the resumption of military aid to Guatemala, which authorities argue is needed to fight drug trafficking and crime.

US Congress halted all military aid to Guatemala in 1990, although there are indications that millions of dollars in covert aid continued to flow into the country for some years afterwards. The US relaxed the restrictions somewhat in 2007, allowing for the purchase of helicopters for the Guatemala Air Force, intended to be used to fight drug trafficking.

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This is a cause taken up by previous administrations, including Perez’s predecessor, President Alvaro Colom. During a trip to Washington DC during his final weeks in office, Colom met with a Department of Defense representative and said they’d established six conditions for the partial resumption of military aid to Guatemala.

The condition which might prove the most difficult for Perez’s government requires the release of all military documents related to Guatemala’s civil war. There is little chance that Perez will prove willing to do so, considering his level of support from the military. He has also faced accusations of committing human rights violations during the conflict.

Another Perez advisor told the AP that Guatemala would look for military aid from other countries, if the US does not help provide the equipment needed to boost law enforcement efforts. This may be subtle reference to the fact that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is set to attend Perez’s swearing in ceremony.

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