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Cablegate: Perez Molina Outlines Second-Round Strategy

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P 251942Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY GUATEMALA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3966
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO PRIORITY 4548
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L GUATEMALA 001941

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/24/2017
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL KCRM SNAR PHUM GT
SUBJECT: PEREZ MOLINA OUTLINES SECOND-ROUND STRATEGY


Classified By: Ambassador James M. Derham for reasons 1.4 (b&d).

Summary
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1. (C) During a September 18 meeting with the Ambassador,
center-right presidential candidate Otto Perez Molina of the
Partido Patriota outlined his strategy for winning the November 4 run-off election with the support of voters of the center-right GANA. Perez Molina said he was "certain" that none of his campaign funds are coming from narcotraffickers, and his Congressional bench leader, Baldetti, said she had "proof" that rival Colom's campaign was narco-financed. Perez Molina asserted that accusations of human rights abuses allegedly committed in the course of his army career were groundless. Perez Molina also discussed his candidates for some cabinet positions. End Summary.

Seeking Support of CASA and GANA Voters
---------------------------------------
2. (C) The Ambassador and DCM met with Partido Patriota Presidential Candidate Otto Perez Molina and the head of his
legislative block, Roxana Baldetti, over breakfast at the Residence on September 18. Perez Molina and Baldetti looked tired and said they had spent a grueling two weeks traveling around the country trying to line up support from the mayors-elect and local political leaders from the parties whose presidential candidates had not made it into the second-round election. The Patriotas have focused their attention on the GANA party that won heavily in local elections and that appeals ideologically to the same center-right electoral base as the Patriotas. Perez Molina said that they have lined up the support of over 70 GANA mayors as well as a number of mayors from the FRG. He said that GANA leaders at the departmental level will overwhelmingly support the Patriotas, noting that the only
two departments where GANA will apparently support the rival
UNE are Zacapa and Baja Verapaz. Perez Molina said he would
meet with Tono Coro, popular Mayor of Santa Catarina Pinula
and chairman of GANA,s committee for the suburbs of Guatemala City, on September 19 and was confident that they would secure his support in the crucial metropolitan district. Perez Molina said that he had spoken with rightist CASA party leader Eduardo Suger, who won 300,000 largely urban votes on September 9, and thought he could count on CASA voters to vote for the Patriotas in the second round.
Perez Molina was less sanguine about getting any support from the Unionista Party, led by Guatemala City Mayor and former President Alvaro Arzu, which is very strong in Guatemala City and appears to have struck a deal with UNE's Alvaro Colom.

3. (C) Perez Molina said that the Partido Patriota's strategy in the second round will be to get enough mayors to cross over to the Partido Patriota (NB: the Patriotas only won 26 mayoral races on September 9, compared to 103 for the UNE) to neutralize UNE's rural strength. The Partido Patriota knows it will not be able to defeat UNE in the countryside, but is working to limit its losses while
increasing its majority of Guatemala City's vote. Perez Molina said that a recent Patriota poll taken just in Guatemala City and its suburbs showed the Patriotas ahead by 57% to 43%. The Patriotas plan to campaign hard in Guatemala City, where they think they will need 60% of the vote in November to win the overall election.

4. (C) Perez Molina is confident that key GANA leaders will support him. Besides the departmental leaders and mayors who he claims already support him, Perez Molina expects failed GANA presidential candidate Alejandro Giammattei will eventually endorse him. Perez Molina said that GANA is deeply divided with the national party leadership preferring to keep a distance from both the Patriotas and UNE. But the national party leaders are increasingly irrelevant, according to Perez Molina, as two-thirds of GANA's legislative block
and virtually all of its mayors and departmental leaders favor an alliance with the Patriotas. Some GANA legislators have already publicly endorsed Perez Molina.

5. (C) GANA Congressional bench leader Jorge Mendez Herbruger separately told Pol/Econ Couns September 18 that he believes that a majority -- perhaps 70% -- of GANA voters would vote for Perez Molina in the second round. "It's the natural thing for them to do," Mendez said, noting that Perez Molina's politics aligned closely with those of center-right GANA voters, and recalling that Partido Patriota and GANA had run in coalition in 2003. Mendez predicted that Perez
Molina's efforts to win the support of GANA mayors going into the second round would be largely successful.

Perez Claims Campaign Free of Drug Money
----------------------------------------
6. (C) In regards to financing, Perez Molina told the Ambassador that his campaign has what it needs. After some initial reluctance on the part of the largest private sector groups in Guatemala, Perez Molina claimed to be receiving support now from the Castillos, the Novellas, the Herreras and Dionisio Gutierrez, arguably the four richest families in Guatemala. When the Ambassador asked if these groups were hedging their bets by supporting both candidates, Perez Molina said that they may well be making a token contribution
to the other campaign, but that he was certain that they are betting on his victory. He said that he is satisfied with the coverage and advertising time he has gotten from media mogul Angel Gonzalez, and that he thinks Gonzalez has been even-handed with all the candidates, including the minor ones. Baldetti said that the Patriota's support comes from the legitimate business sector, and claimed to have proof that UNE was taking money from drug traffickers. (NB: Perez Molina subsequently and publicly charged that Colom's campaign was financed by narcotraffickers, but did not offer any evidence.) The Ambassador asked Perez Molina if he was
confident that narco money had not found its way into his campaign. Perez Molina said that he was certain that it had not. When the Ambassador asked about his relationship to the Mendoza organized crime family in Izabal and Peten, Perez Molina said that public accusations that he had presented the Mendozas to Berger were inaccurate, as Berger had depended on the Mendozas for security when he traveled in Peten during his first (unsuccessful) presidential campaign in 1999. Perez Molina said that his party's minimal relationship with the Mendozas in 2003 had been with the Mendoza brother who lives in Morales, Izabal, not the narco-trafficker brother who lives in Peten. Perez Molina said that in the 2003
campaign the less-bad brother from Morales had offered support for his campaign, but as he got to know the Mendozas he asked them to leave his campaign. He claimed that they were never his supporters and had been brought into the 2003 campaign by the well-intentioned but naive Alejandro Sinibaldi.

7. (C) The Ambassador asked Perez Molina and Baldetti who they envisioned presiding over Congress in January, 2008, and commented on the negative impression that would be created if
FRG Secretary General Rios Montt were given the position. Baldetti said that the Patriotas are prepared to negotiate the Presidency of Congress in exchange for alliances in the second round, but said that there is no interest in negotiating with the FRG, which only won 15 seats in the September 9 election (down from 27). Both Perez Molina and Baldetti assured the Ambassador that Rios Montt will not
preside over the next Congress.

Cabinet Positions
-----------------
8. (C) In response to the Ambassador's question regarding
who would be potential members of a Perez Molina Administration's economic, security and foreign policy team, Perez Molina said that no decisions have been made yet, but that many members of his team would be chosen for their technical ability rather than their political strengths. On the foreign policy side, he said that Guatemalan Ambassador to the OAS Francisco Villagran is a leading contender for Foreign Minister (NB: Perez Molina's oldest son currently works for Villagran as a Second Secretary in the Guatemalan Mission to the OAS). Perez Molina discounted rumors that Guatemalan Ambassador to the EU Antonio Arenales Fornos had ever been considered for that position, but allowed that Arenales will likely have a role as a policy advisor. On the economic side, Perez Molina said that his choice for Finance Minister would likely be the dean of the School of Business and Economics of the (Jesuit) Rafael Landivar University. Baldetti said that she has asked Perez Molina to be named Minister of Government (the lead ministry on security issues), but that no decision has been made yet. She said
that security and job creation are the two themes of the Patriota presidential campaign, and that it is important that Perez Molina have operators of his confidence ensuring that the next government delivers to the people in these two critical areas. Prompted by the Ambassador, Perez Molina said that he has a good working relationship with current Attorney General Juan Luis Florido and that he does not anticipate changing him. He said that he would have a
heart-to-heart with Florido, however, and tell him to get to work!

Human Rights Scrutiny
---------------------
9. (C) The Ambassador said that if he were elected, Perez Molina would face a lot of scrutiny from human rights groups that would look carefully at his record as commander of the army brigade in Nebaj during the war as well as his time as head of Military Intelligence. He asked Perez Molina how he would respond to those concerns. Perez Molina said that he was not sent to Nebaj as commander of the military region, but rather was hand-picked by MOD Gramajo to go to that conflictive region to try to bring about some reconciliation
with the local population. According to Perez Molina, the military's strategy before his arrival had been to identify anyone who did not move out of the hills into the resettlement camps as being guerrilla supporters. Perez Molina said that his view was that many indigenous persons remained in the mountains not because they supported the guerrillas but rather because they wanted to protect their homes and plots of land. Perez Molina said that during his
time in Nebaj he was able to change the outlook of the military units operating there, and that the army's relationship with the local communities improved greatly.

10. (C) In regards to his role as Director of Intelligence, Perez Molina said that he was not an intelligence officer and that he had been chosen to head that directorate because the President wanted to break the power of two groups of intelligence officers who were competing for leadership of that important office. He denied reports that he had been involved in any way in the disappearance and death of Comandante Everardo (Efrain Bamaca) and said that the story that emerged that he had had a decisive influence with President Serrano, over and against the advice of more senior
military officers, on the fate of Bamaca was apocryphal.

Congressional Action on National Budget
---------------------------------------
11. (C) In regards to issues currently pending before Congress, Baldetti said that she is hopeful that Guatemala's Congress will pass the FY-08 national budget. She said that the Berger Administration had invited both UNE and the Patriotas to a briefing on the budget that Berger sent to Congress in early September to explain where there is some flexibility for the new government to make some changes. The Patriotas were pleased with the Berger government's accommodating attitude on the budget, and believe that it is in the interest of the three largest parties in Congress
(UNE, GANA and Patriota) to pass the budget before the November 4 election. The Patriotas are worried about the imminent expiration of the extraordinary IETAP tax, which will create a fiscal deficit of around $300 million in FY-08, and are hopeful that they can convince the Berger government to extend the tax for one more year to give the new government a chance to get its fiscal house in order. Baldetti said that the Patriotas will also support adoption reform and a new extradition law during this legislature.


Comment
-------
12. (C) Perez Molina's optimism about being the beneficiary of a majority of GANA and CASA party votes in the second round is shared by many of our contacts. Former GANA presidential hopeful Giammattei was initially rumored to have favored Colom for the second round, but had effusive praise for Perez Molina during a recent, joint press conference. Rumors persist about Perez Molina's alleged complicity in human rights abuses and corruption, but no evidence has so far come to light. Given that Guatemala is awash in
narco-money, it is improbable that none of it has found its way into Perez Molina's campaign, but we currently have no grounds to suspect that Perez Molina knowingly accepted narco-funds. The Partido Patriota has yet to substantiate its charge that the Colom campaign is narco-financed.
Derham

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