US Warned Guatemala not to Torture Drug Suspects: WikiLeaks

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The U.S. pressed Guatemalan officials not to torture or illegally detain suspected drug traffickers, according to a diplomatic cable sent by the U.S. ambassador to Guatemala in April 2003, and released by WikiLeaks.

The classified cable, only part of which was published online, documents then-Ambassador John Hamilton’s criticism of the methods used in a drug seizure the previous month, and attempts to convince Guatemalan officials that such abuses put U.S. aid at risk.

It says that the military had allegedly illegally detained and tortured suspects, and planted drugs on them.

Guatemala had been decertified as a cooperating partner in the war on drugs in January of 2003, but continued to receive U.S. counter-narcotics assistance. According to the cable, the ambassador reminded Guatemalan officials that the 2003 decertification was due in large part to allegations of extra-judicial murders by Guatemalan police and emphasized that similar abuses would not be tolerated.

Hamilton visited then-President Alfonso Portillo and his interior and defense ministers in order to stress that the military’s role should be limited to supporting anti-narcotics police operations, and that the abusive methods allegedly employed by military forces were counterproductive and put Guatemala’s recertification at risk.

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