Search

 

Cablegate: Lunch with President Berger

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 GUATEMALA 002673

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/21/2014
TAGS: CASC ETRD MARR PHUM NU ES OAS USAID
SUBJECT: LUNCH WITH PRESIDENT BERGER

Classified By: Ambassador J.R. Hamilton for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: At lunch October 21, President Berger and
the Ambassador addressed a variety of international and
national topics. Principal among them, Berger said Guatemala
would give the informal candidacy of exGuatemalan UN PermRep
Gert Rosenthal 30 days and then fall in behind his good
friend Francisco Flores. Berger is deeply concerned over the
stability of the Bolanos government in Nicaragua and was
pleased to learn of our strong support for it. Berger
intends to keep current Defense Minister Mendez Pinelo on
through the end of the year and then replace him with General
Carlos Aldana (not current chief of staff Ricardo Bustamante,
whose nomination would send shivers through the human rights
community). Berger acknowledges that Guatemala has not
pushed CICIACS the way it should but reiterates his
government's interest. Ditto for establishment of an office
here of the UN Human Rights Commissioner. He is still
optimistic that Hague Convention-consistent adoptions
legislation can be approved by the Guatemalan Congress this
year. He is similarly optimistic that the CAFTA will enjoy
strong support in the Guatemalan Congress. Expressing
appreciation for U.S. support of what his government wants to
accomplish, the President also committed to signing, together
with the Ambassador, the recently negotiated 5-year umbrella
agreement with AID in a public ceremony. End summary.

2. (C) The Ambassador and Mrs. Hamilton hosted the lunch,
which Mrs. Berger also attended. Taking each topic in turn:

3. (C) OAS Secretary General election:

Berger said he knows former Salvadoran President Francisco
Flores a lot better than he knows veteran Guatemalan diplomat
Gert Rosenthal, but that he had signed off on an effort to
explore possibilities of a Rosenthal candidacy just before
Flores phoned him to advise of his candidacy and to seek
Guatemala's support. Berger says Flores would provide the
OAS strong leadership, while noting that Rosenthal is a good
diplomatic technocrat. Berger confirmed that the Central
Americans have committed to supporting a single candidate -
whoever can line up the most support in the next month.
Berger thinks that Flores' baggage is his close association
with the U.S. and that the votes of Venezuela, Brazil and
CARICOM states could conceivably be won by a Rosenthal
candidacy. He is aware of Peruvian and Argentine interest,
but notes that Chile, Bolivia and Colombia would not support
an Argentine candidacy and he is not sure that Peru's
interest, whether for Paniagua or FM Rodriguez, is serious.
Notwithstanding his observation about Flores' relationship
with us, Berger indicated an expectation and hope that the
U.S. would support him, repeating that Flores could provide
the kind of strong leadership the OAS needs. The Ambassador
said we think Flores is in fact the strongest candidate, to
which Berger responded that he was honor-bound to let
Rosenthal have a run at the job but that he would fall in
behind Flores after that.

4. (C) Nicaragua:

Berger spoke of his trip over the weekend to Managua to
support the embattled Bolanos government and he recounted
Bolanos' description of what he is facing in terms that match
Managua's reporting. He was not previously aware that we are
strongly supportive of Bolanos and sounded relieved to hear
it, noting that ousting Bolanos would be "disastrous" for the
region and its image as a democratic, modernizing partner of
the U.S. in CAFTA.

5. (C) Defense Ministry:

Confirming what our DATT has been picking up, Berger said he
had decided to make recently promoted General Carlos Aldana
his next Minister of Defense, at the end of the year, a
traditional time for changes in the military. Berger
acknowledged that former GANA coalition partner General Otto
Perez Molina is upset that his own close associate, General
Ricardo Bustmante, current Chief of Staff of the Armed
Foreces, is being passed over and retired. Berger said he
had not yet settled on a replacement for Bustamante.
(Comment: Bustamante's appointment would have been
unsettling to civil society groups, here and abroad. Aldana,
who is a support, not combat, officer, will be better
received outside the military. Inside it, there will be
grumbling that an officer who has not paid his combat dues is
being elevated. End comment.) On a related subject, Berger
said his government would (contrary to what we have been
hearing) have funds in its 05 budget for military
modernization. He also said that Guatemala is prepared to
send up to 650 troops to Haiti (500 bilaterally, an
additional 150 as part of a Central American peacekeeping
battalion). He noted that the compensation from the UN was
not insignificant. So lucrative as to be a source for
modernization.

6. (C) CICIACS, the Office of the UN Commissioner for Human
Rights, and Article 98:

Berger acknowledged the Ambassador's point that CICIACS has
been languishing but reiterated his government's support of
reconfiguring it so as to overcome Constitutional Court and
Congressional objections. A further comment implied that he
has personally spoken about CICIACS in recent meetings he has
held with Congressional leaders. He is similarly committed
to winning Congressional approval for the agreement with the
UN to set up an office here of the Commissioner for Human
Rights. He said Human Rights Adviser La Rue and former UN
PermRep Rosenthal are en route to Geneva now to tweak the
agreement so as to meet the strongest Congressional
objections to it. Berger did not make any particular comment
about Article 98 but seemed comfortable with the Ambassador's
description of MFA/Embassy plans to seek ratification this
fall.

7. (C) CAFTA:

Asked about the Guatemalan timetable for submitting CAFTA to
their Congress, Berger's response suggested he had not given
it much recent thought, as he recalled what he had told the
Ambassador a couple of months ago, that the Centrals wanted
to move in unison. He did say that, in his own travels
around the country, he is finding that indigenous leaders
strongly favor CAFTA and that only a few "tiny groups" would
ultimately be opposed. Comment: This unfortunately does not
jibe with our own impressions that the public, indigenous
groups especially, are not yet well informed on CAFTA.
Berger could hardly contain his enthusiasm for a November 15
ceremony on the border with El Salvador where the last
remaining obstacles to physical integration will be stood
down. Crossing the border will thereafter be much like
crossing a state line in the U.S.; Berger feels that he and
his Salvadoran counterparts have done more this year to
promote real integration than their predecessors did in 40.

8. (C) Adoptions:

Berger and Mrs. Berger, who is deeply involved in the
adoptions issue, confirmed that they are supporting a new,
Hague-consistent version of adoptions reform legislation,
that they oppose any suspension of adoptions (as some
reformers have advocated), and that they favor a grandfather
clause for adoptions in process once the new legislation goes
into effect. Mrs. Berger thought the opportunity for getting
such legislation approved this year was slipping away but the
President, citing a conversation earlier this week with the
President of Congress, said there was still a good chance for
positive action.

9. (C) Bilateral relations:

The Ambassador briefed Berger on his consultations in
Washington, noting the changed, more positive view of
Guatemala both within and outside the executive branch (while
emphasizing the more critical view, largely because of
CICIACS and the UNHRC office, within the U.S. human rights
community). The Ambassador said that we have a good
possibility of freeing up at least $2m in frozen MAP funds
and that doing so would send an important signal of progress
made civil-military relations and ending impunity within the
military. Reiterating how out on a limb he is with his
military over modernization, Berger said he would be deeply
grateful if we could provide such support. He also recounted
with pleasure how friendly and gracious ("and he recognized
me immediately") the President was when they spoke briefly at
the UNGA and said how much he appreciates the support we are
giving in general. In that vein, he said he wants to conduct
a public signing of the new 5-year umbrella agreement between
his government and AID, which AID has recently negotiated.

3. (C) Comment:

This was a fairly informative, useful exchange. Atmospherics
were on this occasion quite good.
HAMILTON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Assange's Hearing: Latest Observations From Court

Despite severe restrictions on observers, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is the only NGO that has gained access to the hearing, and we’ve managed to monitor proceedings on most days. We will continue to do so whenever possible. Yesterday I was in court ... More>>

Climate Change: Record Northern Heat, Fuels Concerns Over US Wildfire Destruction

More than 78,000 acres of forest in the Sierra mountains in California has been lost due to wildfires. Photo: San Francisco Fire Department The northern hemisphere experienced its warmest August ever, the World Meteorological Organization ( WMO ... More>>

ILO: Impact On Workers Of COVID-19 Is ‘catastrophic’

COVID-19 has had a “catastrophic” impact on workers, the head of the International Labour Organization ( ILO ) said on Wednesday, with lost working hours higher than originally forecast, and equivalent to 495 million full-time jobs globally in the ... More>>

UN: WHO Warns Against Potential Ebola Spread In DR Congo And Beyond

Ebola is spreading in a western province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), raising fears that the disease could reach neighbouring Republic of Congo and even the capital, Kinshasa, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday. ... More>>