Cablegate: Guatemala/Mexico Border Issues, Staffdel Meacham

Published: Mon 27 Dec 2004 04:04 PM
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. Summary: SFRC Staffdel Meacham visited Guatemala to
discuss a broader North American security architecture and
Guatemala's role as the southern border state of that area.
Based on meetings with the country team, Ministry of Foreign
Relations, Migration, and the Ministry of Defense, Staffdel
Meacham and embassy staff undertook a broader review of 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. End Summary.
2. Following his trip to Mexico (reftel), Senate Foreign
Relations Committee Latin American specialist Carl Meacham
visited Guatemala December 9-11 as part of a study on common
security measures with the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
Unlike relationships with North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA) partners, no formal security arrangements
exist with Central American nations. Guatemalan
interlocutors stressed that Guatemala played a significant
role in Mexican border security and, by extension, that of
all of North America. A senior Ministry of Defense official
noted that the length of the Mexico-Guatemala border and the
terrain which it traverses make a strictly defensive posture
by Mexican security agencies untenable. A senior Immigration
official added that security demands increased cooperation
both between the relevant security agencies in Guatemala and
between those agencies and their Mexican and United States
3. In particular, the visit to a Guatemala/Mexico border
crossing point illustrated the openness of Mexico's southern
border. In open view of the two governments' officials,
goods and people were transported by raft across the river in
a highly-organized and heavily-used pattern. Officials on
both sides of the border told us that they had no formal
information-sharing practices and little official or
unofficial contact.
People, Practices, and Equipment
4. All GOG representatives stressed the lack of resources to
combat smuggling of persons and goods into and through
Guatemalan territory, specifically citing the lack of
transportation and communications equipment. Nonetheless,
upon further discussion, each GOG representative noted that
human capital was the most critical component to assure
border security. Each service -- including Immigration, the
armed forces, and the National Civilian Police (PNC) --
labors under the task of recruiting and retraining quality
employees to undertake their basic missions and to combat
corruption within their ranks. Each of these services need
resources to expand recruitment and training in order to
increase the number and the efficacy of their operations.
5. In addition to the need to expand the operations of the
different services, GOG representatives noted the need to
increase cooperation between the services, and between the
operational services and the judicial system. According to
these representatives, Immigration and the PNC currently only
focus on immediate cases at hand. They are not trained to
interview and investigate in a manner that could obtain
useful evidence for prosecution by the Attorney General's
office, nor are they trained to develop intelligence to
attack organized crime on a systemic level. One
representative specifically noted the lack of wiretap
authority to generate intelligence.
6. The previously mentioned transportation and communications
equipment is critical to the operational aspects of border
security (Guatemala has only one helicopter and five pick-up
trucks to patrol the entire border with Mexico). In
addition, Guatemala's Immigration Service lacks the equipment
to keep accurate and retrievable records. Computers and
database archives are particularly necessary in order to
manage formal migration. An illustration of the equipment
needs is to be seen in deportations of Central Americans from
the U.S. Upon arrival in Guatemala, 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.
Vetting Human Assets, Reorientation of Military
--------------------------------------------- --
7. Several of the GOG interlocutors stressed the need to
maximize regional security by developing specific vetted
cadres within the relevant services. Furthermore, they
noted, many of the relevant tasks can currently only be
undertaken by the Guatemalan armed forces. Rather than a
military expansion -- precisely the opposite of the current
government's objectives -- they discussed a possible
reorientation of its missions and priorities, and inquired
about U.S.-funded assets to help achieve them. That the
armed forces currently join patrols with the PNC in certain
high-crime areas is an example of the reorientation of the
standard military mission.
8. In the immediate term, the NAFTA partners need to engage
Central America in general and Guatemala in particular to
institutionalize border security arrangements, particularly
between the specific agencies operating border control
points. As a valuable buffer zone, it is in the United
States' national interest to help Guatemalan security
agencies develop human capacity to improve border security,
in addition to the provision of transportation,
communications, and information systems equipment such as
biometric recording, database archives, and wiretap equipment
(should wiretap authority be granted legally). In the longer
term, we need to continue our MPP objectives of developing a
liberal democratic society, including respect for the rule of
law and an end of impunity in regard to corruption. End
9. Meacham did not have the opportunity to clear this message
before departing Guatemala.
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