Guatemala Upgrades Defense Plan against Criminality

Guatemala Upgrades Defense Plan against Criminality

By Dialogo
May 03, 2016




According to a recent survey conducted for the Prensa Libre
publication by independent research and marketing agency Prodatos, public insecurity and the high cost of living continue to be the main issues Guatemalan citizens face. More than 50 percent of people living in the metropolitan region and the provincial urban centers reported that lack of security was their main concern.

To tackle this problem head on, in January, the president of the Republic of Guatemala, Jimmy Morales, appointed Brigadier General Alfredo Díaz Waight to the position of Inspector General of the Army.

To discuss this and other issues currently affecting Guatemala, Diálogo
interviewed Brig. Gen. Díaz Waight during the Central American Security Conference (CENTSEC 2016) that took place between April 6th and 8th in San José, Costa Rica.

Diálogo:
What is the job of the Army’s Inspector General?

Brigadier General Alfredo Díaz Waight:
It is that of managing a Military organization, which is basically an agency that provides support, and exercises control and oversight of the Guatemalan Army. Its mission is to inspect Brigades, Commands, services, and facilities in general of the Guatemalan Army with the purpose of checking on its readiness status, administrative aspects, expenditures and budgets, all for the purpose of optimizing, correcting and enhancing their Military performance.

Diálogo:
Why?

Brig. Gen. Díaz Waight:
Because the Guatemalan Army’s performance is mandated by the Constitution. Not only that, but [the Army] follows guidelines set by the president of the Republic, and it is important that the Inspector General’s Office review them, confirm that the Army’s performance is in line with the budget and, above all, that it is based on transparency and legality. Through its inspections, the Inspector General’s Office controls the conduct of an armed force.

Diálogo:
So, it bears no relation to the Air Force and the Navy?

Brig. Gen. Díaz Waight:
Yes, I want to clarify that the Guatemalan Army is made up of air, sea, and land forces, while other countries have these as separate, independent forces.

Diálogo:
What is your priority at this moment?

Brig. Gen. Díaz Waight:
We are working to develop some rules related to the Defense Planning Integration System, or SIGPLADE. But within the SIGPLADE, a system of metrics must also be developed. This system of measurements involves processes that are very modern and are also promoted by other countries, especially the United States, which will help us have better control of the management aspects, the Army’s expenditures versus operations, the number of operations, and the benefits that this may represent. In the Inspector General’s Office, we are developing, learning and consolidating the topic of metrics, which will strengthen our new defense planning and management system.

Diálogo:
During this conference, a lot has been said about the joint collaboration between the armed forces and law enforcement forces, their integration. How is this taking place in Guatemala?

Brig. Gen. Díaz Waight:
There are agreements and also initiatives. First, there are government initiatives and agreements that are established in order to be able to interact with the civil security forces. We are subject to many mandates requiring us to provide support to the civil security forces. It is on account of them that we have formed task forces where the Army and the National Civil Police (PNC) conduct their work. In some of these task forces, there is a predominance of Military personnel, while in others it is the opposite; the predominance is of PNC agents who jointly implement operations of citizen security and public security. This has been in effect due to the need to provide security to citizens as a result of so many calamities.

Diálogo:
Is this mostly due to drug trafficking activities?

Brig. Gen. Díaz Waight:
Drug trafficking, organized crime, common crime, and different forms of criminality and criminal incidence taking place in our country.

Diálogo:
Guatemala has a Special Operations Force that became well-known worldwide as a result of its training and preparation, the Kaibiles. Do they work to any extent together with these task forces?

Brig. Gen. Díaz Waight:
As you said, they represent our Special Operations Force. In every army, there are Special Forces, and Guatemala is no exception. These elite forces are the Kaibiles and the Paratroopers. But mostly, the Kaibiles perform specific tasks. For example, they have been traveling as a special Military unit to Congo and Haiti to participate in international commissions or missions. In Guatemala, they have to follow orders as strategic special units in order to participate in any event requiring these types of units or specially trained personnel. But this is separate from the Task Forces.

Diálogo:
You have just mentioned peacekeeping missions in which Guatemala has participated. Could you expand a little more on this?

Brig. Gen. Díaz Waight:
At this time, we are participating in many missions in Haiti, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in other places, but as observers or members of the staff .
In addition, in Guatemala we have the Regional Center for Peace-Keeping Operations –CREOMPAZ, where officers and civilians come to receive training in these topics that are so common in international [peacekeeping] operations.

Diálogo:
To go back to the topic of drugs, what is still lacking to better curb the problem of drug trafficking in this region?

Brig. Gen. Díaz Waight:
I think we need to be very knowledgeable on this topic. We need to be continuously studying it because this scourge is changing; it is constantly modifying its actions and methodology. These are very powerful criminal organizations, especially as a result of the amount of money they manage. This gives them access to weapons, vehicles, property… they can infiltrate the society, the judicial systems. So we always have to be aware of how they mutate, how they keep changing. Another aspect which I think is of the utmost importance is political will. Because I believe that Military organizations or security organizations often want to do their work and, in my opinion, we know how to do this work. The problem lies with the means to do it. It is a matter of resources. Having said that, I believe that we can still engage in many partnerships, we can share a lot, we can have relations with other organizations that have other capabilities. We can seek and get support. In brief, I think knowing the topic and having the political will are both very important aspects. But it is also important to do follow up. For example, activities like CENTSEC are very important because they follow up on all the topics we have been discussing and making a note of, as they allow for this continuity.

Diálogo:
I was just going to ask you about that, before closing. To what do you attribute the importance attained by CENTSEC?

Brig. Gen. Díaz Waight:
This is a result of what we are doing as partner nations who are tied by our common problems. Guatemala has good relations with Mexico, with El Salvador, with Honduras, [and] with Belize. For many years now, we have maintained a very close relationship with Mexico in a coordinated manner. We constantly conduct meetings between border control commands, alternating between the two countries. I myself have participated in various meetings of this kind, as we used to do them almost every three months; one in Mexico, the next in Guatemala. During those meetings, we would reach agreements, review our agendas, draft our minutes, the agreements we reached, especially anything regarding the coordinated patrol of our borders. During the time in between these meetings, there were also border patrolling and military activities, which allowed us to maintain these ties, and keep allowing us to maintain these ties, this relationship. The same took place with El Salvador and Honduras. We also had concurrent patrol actions with Belize in order to, at least, be able to watch for and confront these illegal activities when they take place along the borders. We also engaged fully with Canada, a country that has also been providing us with support for several years. Currently, we are involved in a project to refurbish infrastructure where the new Center for Joint Operations will be based. There will be equipment, there will be connections. All of this is basically for the purpose of integrating, especially the civil organizations into this military arrangement, among them, firefighters, the National Coordinator for Disaster Mitigation, the Transit Military Police, the PNC, so that, as organizations, we can tackle problems of any kind, [whether] military, of civil security, or of public security in the case of disasters. What we are going to do in this Center for Joint Operations, once refurbished, is to incorporate and, again, take on the issues our society is faced with.
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