US pledges to support Guatemala with police training, and intelligence 

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By LatAm Reports Editor

Priorities of the U.S. government focus on democracy, security and the fight against illicit networks.

The Undersecretary of State of the United States for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Brian Nichols, said in an interview with Prensa Libre y News Guatevisión that soon his country and Guatemala will begin a high-level dialogue on economic matters, in addition to reiterating that, with Bernardo Arévalo’s coming to power, they will continue with training programs for the police, the customs service and will seek opportunities for the exchange of financial intelligence against illicit networks of drug trafficking and human trafficking.

The interview took place on the afternoon of Monday, January 15, 2024 in one of the halls of the National Palace of Culture, where minutes earlier the diplomat offered a press conference along with the rest of the official delegation that the United States sent to Guatemala to attend the transition of presidential command.

He also assured that his country will continue to collaborate with the government and people of Guatemala to prevent the break of democracy, in addition to reiterating the reasons why the US. government decided to sanction several people and individuals in Guatemala, who

What conclusion does the United States draw from the electoral and transition process in Guatemala full of uncertainty and attacks on democracy?

I told them, that people who wanted to hinder democracy and disappoint the Guatemalan people were going to fail.

It is a huge victory for all Guatemalans who have already elected a president and a vice president, who have the support of the people in the most observed elections in Guatemala’s history. We are very happy to be able to support that process.

Can any Guatemalans wonder why the United States has been so interested in this transition process?

We have a very long relationship with Guatemala, it is an allied country, we have ties of family, trade; it is a key country for the development of the region and it is also a country with which we share important values. The success of Guatemala and Guatemalans is a success for the United States and vice versa.

Unlike other transition processes, the U.S. played a leading role in the transition process, why did they decide to move from pronouncements to actions?

We leverage the tools we have at the service of democracy and against corruption, bribery, biting, coimas, threats and everything that went against democracy, but the protagonists of this story are Guatemalans.

Complaints from people who have been sanctioned by the U.S. follow. And even former President Alejandro Giammattei denounced threats What answers to these allegations?

We have a legal obligation to fight corruption and support democracy and that is why in conjunction with the international community we have supported the transition process, but when there is evidence of corruption or coimas or whatever, we have used these tools, but the decisive part is that of Guatemalans who went out to defend democracy and we are very proud to have helped in how little we can do.

For the United States, has the risk of a democratic break in Guatemala already happened?

I think we have come to a happy beginning of the management of Bernardo Arévalo and Karin Herrera. There is a lot of work ahead and there will be people who will try to break the democratic order and hinder that process and use corrupt measures. We know that and we will continue to work with the government and the people of Guatemala to prevent the break of democracy. I am very optimistic that Guatemala will be a successful country with a government that represents the interests of the people.

Can the people who were sanctioned get their sanctions removed?

Yes, there is always that possibility but it depends on how they act and whether people respect laws and standards and work for democracy. There is a way to remove visa or financial penalties.

Brian Nichols, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, in an interview with Prensa Libre and Guatevisión, at the National Palace of Culture in Guatemala, on January 15, 2024. (Photo Prensa Libre: Erick Ávila)

By doing a regional analysis and taking into account the directions taken by other governments in Central America, is Guatemala the best ally in the United States in the region?

We have many allies in the region and I don’t want to describe one as better, because what we see are opportunities with the Arévalo government that has shared values in favor of democracy, but there are also other countries that are struggling to improve in complicated conditions, and obviously there are other countries that do not respect democracy and in those cases we have to close ranks.

Do you see any risks of greater interference in the region by powers such as Russia or China and that overcome the influence of the United States?

Governments and peoples in the region have to choose with whom they want their diplomatic, economic and political relations. It is a judgment of values, opportunities and benefits and many countries have bet on the countries it mentions, but they have been disappointed because the promises did not arrive. So with good judgment, we’re going to have a lot of valuable partners.

The president of the United States. U.S. Joseph Biden issues a statement and in addition to congratulating Guatemala talks about strengthening civil security, combating corruption and addressing the causes of migration. What is the one of those three the priority now with the Arévalo government?

We have had a strategy to combat the root causes of irregular migration and for decades trade relations with Guatemala have been supported. We see opportunities for a better country, with a closer relationship, but we have to give Guatemalans more security, fight transnational crime, give them economic and social options not to migrate. Most people don’t want to leave their country, but they feel there are no options.

And that can be achieved with more private equity investment promoted by the US. To Guatemala?

I think so. We will have a high-level dialogue on economic matters soon; it is something we have assured from day one with the Arévalo government. We will continue with the efforts of Central America Forward and have already promoted economic programmes, but the key is that economic growth is reach to areas of the country that have not benefited greatly.

What actions could we see in the coming months in the fight against drug trafficking and strengthening transnational security?

President Arévalo has expressed his commitment to the fight against corruption; and the entry of smuggling and narcotic drugs into the country is mostly due to corruption and by healing the institutions will improve the fight against transnational crime considerably. We will continue with training programmes for the police, the customs service and we will also look for opportunities for the exchange of financial intelligence against illicit drug trafficking and human trafficking networks. We see a lot of opportunities for that with this government.

This article has been translated from the original which first appeared in Prensa Libre